Friday, 27 November 2015

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015
Montreal, Quebec

Mandala and I were driven by the Megabus to Montreal through the night.  Bus transportation isn’t the best mode of travel.  There’s only one way of moving that I like.  Guess what it is? 

We took a chunk out of the day to appease the legs.  We headed for the Botanical Gardens off of Pie IX Blvd. - always a pleasant place.  To reach the gardens from our temple, one passes through the landmark area of the Olympic Stadium.  The stadium resembles a space ship and reminds me of other places in the atmosphere where we might venture.  It has a futuristic look. 

While walking, I was contemplating the incredible vimana (a magnificent aircraft the size of a city, invisible at times) described in the book, Srimad Bhagavatam.  Shalva was the name of the captain of that aircraft and he had a rather selfish disposition. 

When you delve into other worlds and various means of transport, you do at least become mentally transported. 

I hope that I was able to take my listeners, while I was giving class, to some outer limits.  I was asked to speak from 18.66 of the Bhagavad Gita on the topic of surrender.  It is generally understood that when you alter your consciousness to a higher level of being, then you have the freedom to travel to other spheres beyond the earthly plane.  Once going to the optimum place, known as Vaikuntha, you never wish to return to this world of struggle, of birth and death. 

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Saturday, November 21st, 2015
Mississauga, Ontario

I Am Not…
It was the second day consecutively where either my driver or my host was talking about what was on their mind.  In general, that’s what people do.  The subject of one's talk is one’s projected thoughts.

The talk was wrapped up in one subject – violence.  The hashtag words would be ‘Syria’, ‘Paris’, ‘Terrorists’, ‘ISIS’, ‘War’, ‘Refugees’.  People seem to be expressing their opinions about what to do about ugly doings which are hiding behind religion.  It is madness that seems to be under the microscope as of late.  How much of it can we take?  Also, how generous should one be, specifically for nations, considering how many refugees to receive in the wake of people being displaced and who live in fear? 

I attended devotional programs at the homes of these two individuals.  The above topics did not enter into the joyous atmosphere of our gatherings.  It was before and after that the socio-political concerns surfaced.

In general, problems always arise from the bodily conception.  The conceptions that ‘I am this body’ and ‘Anything connected to this body is mine’, are false notions.  They lead to false controlism, false territorialism, and false identity. 

The Vedas teach that, “I am not this body.  I am not Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Male, Female, Black, White, etc.  I am a spirit, free from all bodily designations.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Friday, November 20th, 2015
Brampton, Ontario

Going For A Cleaning
I was sitting in the dentist’s chair while the assistant was working at cleaning my teeth.  At one point, I began to slightly fade, a moment of fatigue hit me and the assistant could feel my teeth closing in on her fingers. 

“Sleepy?” she asked.

“Yes, a bit.” 

I had little time to say much more as she had to press on with her work but when I saw the opportunity I asked her, “Does it happen to many clients or am I the only one?”

“Yes, it happens enough, especially at this time of day.”  It was 3 PM

It was a consolation hearing that.  I lingered in that thought, reasoning that if I’m a trite tired it’s because I’m working hard for our mission in sharing higher consciousness with others. 

The assistant did a nice job.  I was complimented for keeping my teeth maintained well, although in the past my brushing was too aggressive.  I take pride in the preservation of my teeth.  I believe it is maya, illusion, to neglect the body God has given us to use as a tool in service to others. 

I asked the assistant, “Your name?”


“As in Loren?”

“I wish,” she said and with a great smile. 

From the dental clinic, Mandala, who was waiting for me, and I walked to the home of a Krishna devotee.  We took the scenic route and captured the willow trees, golden leafed and set against a bold blue sky, on our iPhone camera.  It was such a clean look.  And that’s how we have to be – clean in consciousness before leaving this world. 

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Cutting Down
It was a beautiful array of food on the spread of our host’s table - pasta, paneer in sauce, subji, chickpeas in salad.  Chopped up jackfruit and pineapple were also featured.  I should also mention that there was homemade misty dahi, a dessert and another sweet Bengali dish called chumchum.  Chumchum for the tum tum.  Our host, Subal, had intended to kill us with cuisine kindness.  He succeeded.

It was a good thing that our small group from the ashram came walking to the home of Subal.  The 4 km walk was well worth the investment.  It stoked up our digestive powers and after the meal and gathering, we did the same thing home, keeping the fires within going. 

At the home of Subal, we read about Krishna, His pastimes and glories.  We serenaded about Krishna in His aspect as Damodara.  Then we ate.  Ah, it was good. 

When looking at the phenomenal spread of eatables, our eyes were delighted.  Our tongues became active but the stomach stopped cheering at a certain point.  As a monk, I must watch and monitor the intake.  As of late, I’ve been doing better at controlling the eating organs.  I still have a ways to go. 

Many, and I say MANY maladies pester humans due to consuming food in overdrive.  This holds true also for bhakti yogis, who sometimes get carried away with an overload consumption of prasadam (sanctified food).  You can never deceive yourself by saying that, because it is prasadam, therefore, you are protected regardless of quantity.  That type of reasoning may apply when trying to wean off of drugs.  Going from drugs to prasadam is a good transition. 

Now, let’s say that you do not fall into that category but you just want to reduce.  Let’s try this.  Whenever you look at a great display of food and your eyes tell you there’s a certain quantity you could handle it’s a good idea to reason with yourself at that point and say, “I’ll take half of that.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

The Mayor and More
I met Paras, age 30, after a long time.  I engaged him in some of my dramas in the past.  He’s on the verge of opening his own restaurant. 

“I’m vegetarian but I’ve got to serve some of the other stuff,” he said, almost apologetically.  I told him that I understand and that it will take time for the world to get off of eating animal body parts. 

This evening we attended an event.  The venue was Toronto City Hall and the occasion was "A Diwali Remembrance".   There we met mayor John Tory.  He remembers us (Keshava, Gayatri, and I) from the summer’s Ratha Yatra festival.  It was great to hear him say, “Hare Krishna” and also congratulate me on the walking. 

Speaking of walking, I decided to go home from that venue on foot via Yonge Street, always the more interesting route compared to blasé Bloor Street.  
There I met a fellow who was curious. 

“You’re a monk?” he asked. 

“Yes!  A Hare Krishna monk!”

“A hug?” he asked.

“Sure!”  And so we embraced. 

Then I met a man whom I had seen in Cuba.  As usual, he was puffing away on a cigar.  He reminds me of a cross between George Burns and a chimney.  He always seems to sport a good smile. 

“Hey, when are you going back to Cuba?” he asked. 

“The end of this month.” 

“Bring me back some cigars!”

“No, it’s no good for you.  It turns your lungs into something ugly.”

“I’ve got a lot more ugly things going on with my life than a set of bad lungs.”

With that we both laughed.  I kept walking, half amused and half empathetic. 

May the Source be with you!

8 km

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Return of the Demon

I encountered another insomnia attack last night. Let's see how the patterns goes. I thought that forty-five days of good hard work on the feet, walking, and regulation could cure sleeplessness. Lo and behold, soon after returning to home-base the old pattern seemed to return, hauntingly. What to do? I’ve tried everything under the sun to deal with the issue but I’m dealing with a stubborn ox. What can I, as a bhakti yogi, learn from stubbornness? I had to think about it.

Well, I will be very obstinate towards “Maya”, worldly temptations. I will say “NO!” to Maya’s beckoning and deny any offers from that department of illusion. I will try to see staunchness and stubbornness to be like a set of twins, good neighbours at least, who live on the same block together. Patience will also be a part of the same community.

Perhaps I’ll take up juggling and toss these three pins in the air, like balancing time, place, and circumstance together. It seems like a formula for easier living, beginning with the creature called stubbornness. I’m glad to meet with a challenge although initially it was uncomfortable when I saw insomnia coming on.

I’m learning from this, that whatever rears its ugly head is an act of God. In this way I am beginning to see divinity manifest all around.

I did manage to pace a bit during the time of apparent despair. The balcony of our ashram provided a good space as I addressed the little demon (Oops! Excuse me!) my little friend called Insomnia.

May the Source be with you!

3 km

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Monday, November 16th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Whim and Purpose

I went westwardly twice today, first by way of Bloor Street and then later by Dupont.  I guess I was taken by whim each of those two times.  No!  Time number two was a deliberate visit to the home of a young man whose grandmother just passed away.  He wanted me and other members of our ashram to have a grand veggie prasadam meal in her honour. 

The sentiment is noble and appropriate.  She is in India now thousands of miles away or perhaps now thousands of yojanas away (a yojana is a Vedic measurement equating to 15 kilometres or 8 miles).  Since the soul travels, there is no guarantee that it returns to Earth once leaving.  It may be destined to more sublime spheres.  This could be something to rejoice about, since existence on our plane is wrought with suffering and with not enough enjoyment to match.

In the Gita, Krishna speaks of pain and pleasure, sadness and gladness as being a very shared reality.  Right in the beginning of chapter 2, he addresses dual experiences.  Therefore, application of tolerance is necessary and acceptance is key. 

We are encouraged to be in Vaikuntha (Heaven) wherever we are.  It is the state of consciousness that is important.  Our greed and envy tends to stir the pot and agitate us to the point where we say, "the other man’s grass is always greener".  By the way, that’s not always necessarily true - it’s greener where you water it.  My condolences go to the righteous young man, Durjoy by name, and all well wishes go to his grandma, a mature and pious lady.

May the Source be with you!

9 km

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Sunday, November 15th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario


There was a general sense of happiness in the atmosphere today.  The great weather made a major contribution.  Many walkers hit the trail, as I did, along Balfour Park, The Brickworks, and beyond.
However, a touch of sadness naturally grasps the heart for those of us who remember the passing of our teacher, Srila Prabhupada.  It has been 38 years of this anniversary event.  I chose to read a passage from his biography to a gathering of devotees before I took to walking.  The letter was addressed to him from one of his spiritual daughters.  The contents of the letter are as follows:

Dear Srila Prabhupada,
This shawl is made of the wool from our own sheep.  It is spun and woven here at Gita Nagari.  It is the first piece we have made.  While I was working on it, I would always think of you, of how I was supposedly making you a gift.  But, actually, you were giving me the gift of engagement in devotional service.  Srila Prabhupada, I always pray to Lord Narasimhadeva to protect you and allow you to stay with us and finish your books.  But, I think today the rain falling from the sky is actually the tears of the demigods, crying at the prospect of your departure.  I am also crying.  Even Krishna cried at the passing of grandfather Bhisma, so I have a right to cry.  I cannot be so philosophical to say that you are always present in your books and teachings, though I know these things are true.  I will miss you so much, Srila Prabhupada, if you go.  I beg that I will always remain your menial servant and devotee.
Your humble disciple,
Satyabhama Dasi

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Saturday, November 14th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Woe to the World

I am back at home base.  I’m downscaling as far as walking is concerned but I am walking.  I’m revisiting the neighbourhoods I know by making a puny promenade (5 km).
I’m seeing a full circle dynamic from one year ago.  I see Christmas paraphernalia being propped up for the big commercial hype.  I see the liquor store bustling with activity - vain attempts at weekend pleasure.
I do see optimism in the hearts of the people though.  At least I’m receiving nods and smiles.  I always see that as a good sign.
There is an undercurrent, however, of uncertainty, as always in the atmosphere of this world.  The city of Paris is under a siege of terrorism.  The loss of 129 lives and many injured, the result of ISIS activities, is very significant.  In simple terms, we might make a remark that ignorance is behind it all.  But a question continues to linger in my mind regarding such terrorist acts.
At a home program this evening during a casual discussion, the question arose.  “Since it is such a cowardly act that just took place on the part of some antagonist, why does the US continue to supply arms to such zealot outfits?”  This is a great puzzle for me.  I stand to be corrected on such an assumption - sounds to me like it all boils down to economics. 
Woe to the world. 

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Friday, November 13th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Friendship Walk

We took one last walk to wrap up our bonding venture with fellow pedestrians – Vivasvan, Mandala, and Jake.  Tre’von had already left for Hartford and Esa for his home city, Philadelphia.  Our group of four took to a seven kilometre stint through the residential area of Rosedale before parting ways.
Surely a bond had developed between us over the last few weeks of walking and it is such a bond that sustains us.  In all reality, it is establishing personalism that is so vital for our survival.  There were times on this recent trip where tension had flared between two or more of us but our strong sense of needing to fixate ourselves on the mission made it it possible to overcome any differences.
As we came to a park, we met Wayne Cherry, our neighbour and a noted artist.  I’ve seen Wayne for many years.  He’s on his second dog now who is 13 years old.  I say this to illustrate the point that I’ve seen Wayne for a long time.   During my training time at the ravines, I would see him when he would take his pet for a stroll.   Being neighbourly is another aspect of personalism.  I’m always glad to see Wayne who always expresses interest in my latest venture on foot.
“Impersonalism” is a common theme found in our guru’s books which he addresses when speaking about the Divine.  Prabhupada writes, “Long practice in impersonalism becomes a source of trouble.”  He then correlates personalism to the joy of life – to the bliss factor.   That’s what everyone wants, to be happy.

May the Source be with you!

7 km

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
Brooklyn, New York

Now That The Walk’s Done

Well, our walk through a portion of the US northeast is now complete but the activity of trekking will not cease.  Like so many tourists who come to New York, walking over one of the multiple bridges is a must do.  I imagine the Brooklyn Bridge is a popular one and so our core group left Manhattan for Brooklyn via that causeway over the water.

We made our way to Schermerhorn Street where the temple of Radha Govinda is located.  There, darshan, or the viewing of the gorgeous deities, blesses the eyes and in the basement, you can secure a marvelous meal with a veggie nut loaf as one of the main features.

I had asked the boys who travelled with me for some or more of the 950 mile walk to make some comment about it.

Jake was with us for the last day.

Jake:  “While I was walking and focusing on the mantra, I was caring less about some of the physical pain I was going through.  The mantra has power.”

Mandala was with us for the last 2 ½ weeks.
Mandala:  “The walking really helped me to cultivate determination.”

Vivasvan was with me the whole time as my driving support person. He did a lot of walking as well.

Vivasvan:  “It was a life changing experience.  It makes you re-evaluate how you see things and brings you closer to people and nature.  I found out things about myself that didn’t reveal themselves to me before.  Overall, the walk was better than skydiving.”
The final cap that we put on the day was to honour Diwali, the Festival of Lights, at the Iskcon Towaco Center.  There, I spoke about Rama and the epic nature of His story.  Rama spent many steps trudging through the forests of India.

May the Source be with you!
4 miles / 7 km

Friday, 13 November 2015

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Manhattan, New York

The Finish Line…The Tree

We had yet to complete New Jersey before hopping on to a ferry for Manhattan, taking us towards our final destination for this walk.

Two more players entered our trekking arena; a local person, Bhakta Avatara, and Jake from Michigan.  Seven of us took boldly to the streets despite it being overcast with light rain.  Through Newark downtown we went.  And then we came upon bridges with walkways - rarely used. They take you over the river before reaching Jersey City.  Before we came to the posh and clean waterfront with new high-rises, we traveled through areas of human embarrassment - trash, rejected objects of food, coffee containers… We walked by a massive auto grave yard catching a glimpse of the symptoms of Kali Yuga, the age of forgotten values.

In Manhattan, the world of cultural power catches the attention.  We came upon an extraordinary memorial in honour of Irish settlers who took the long journey to the US in response to devastating famine.  Not far from there, just two blocks away, we observed another monument.  This one was to honour the departed souls of 9/11.  It was a huge square-ish run of water trailing down a dark deep well.  Very impactful.

Another one of those tiny miracles occurred when I was stopped in the street by another friend, Sudha Jiva.  He came at the point when the rain came more profusely.  Conveniently, we took shelter of his vehicle nearby where we could talk.

“Much work needs to be done”, we both concluded in regard to promoting spiritual renaissance, one that encourages us back to the land and simple living.

kirtan chanting party was set for our last leg of the 950-mile walk in honour of our teachers (and specifically our guru Srila Prabhupada).  It began at Union Square and proceeded to Tompkins Square Park to its central point, the elm tree.  It was under this tree that our divine teacher inspired his first followers to engage in the prime function for the people of this age - celebration of sacred sound.  There was a small gathering that came to honour our humble event of walking from Boston to Butler and to New York.  I’m grateful that Abhiram, my spiritual friend, came to join us.  Not all of us hugged that very special tree but we all circumambulated it offering it the reverence and credit that it deserves.

I had the good fortune to speak about the glories of bhakti-yoga and our recent walk to a gathering at the nearby Bhakti Center.  I hope that I successfully took them out to the trail in an imaginary way through the woods and along the crazy highways to capture even for a moment the glory of introspective walking.

Although this walk is now completed, I will continue with more trekking and we’ll update you with more tales. Thank you all for following us.

May the Source be with you!

17 miles / 27 km

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Monday, November 9th, 2015
Newark, New Jersey

Another One

A new pilgrim came on board today.  Esa is a 24-year-old guy from Chile and is an employee of Govinda's veggie restaurant.  Here we have another real trooper.  He was the first one to rise and he also kept steady for the entire 24-mile trek on foot.

We all felt a rush of excitement as it is one of the last two days on this 950-mile journey of introspective walking.  It’s almost too hard to believe that this project is coming to an end.  The nature of trekking each day is that you just carry on without cessation.  Fortunately or not, we have to turn our attention to other devotional commitments and issues before dreaming and planning for the next circle.

The four of us trekked through Morristown, Madison, Chatham, and a whole string of boroughs and towns.  In Newark, our expectation to meet more pedestrians became a reality.  

I met Miss Kat.  “That is, with a K”, as she put it.  

She is a very outgoing type of person. 

“I’ve never met a monk before.  I have only seen them in the movies”, she said.

I also met a large-framed man.  When I asked him how he was doing, he expressed how he was happy to have a bed and home.  This is taken for granted by most of us, to have a home, shelter, food, family, and safety.

The little miracle of the day came when our small group came to a junction on Road 16.  We left the town of Madison going east-bound until we came to a complex roadway system.  We were uncertain how to move forward.  We sat against the ramp when suddenly I saw my dear friend, who I know from Canada, drive up.

He rolled down his car window, “What are you doing here Maharaj?”

Nilamani, who used to live in Toronto, was on his way back from work when he spotted us.  The funny thing is that he was on my mind all morning.  I knew that he lived somewhere in New Jersey now but I was uncertain where exactly.  As I mentioned before, walking on the road attracts a lot of attention and causes surprising interactions.

“Come to our house and have a break”, Nilamani said.

And we obliged.

In the evening we went to chant at Union Square in Manhattan.  It was outstanding to see how many people came forward to offer a small light to the image of Krishna and His mother, Yasoda, which was placed upon a small table, after being welcomed to do so as we chanted away.

May the Source be with you!

24 miles/ 39 km

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

Sunday, November 8th, 2015
Washington Township, New Jersey

Something New

We were going along the trail off Road 513 when Tre'von, Mandala and I saw a couple dozen folks coming our way in the opposite lane of the road.  It was clear to us that they were one group.  Were they protesting?  As they came close to us, we could see that each of them, the participants, had some meditative beads in their hands.  In many ways they resembled us.

It was my monk’s instinct to talk to a male person near the end.  The female participants initially appeared a bit militant or at least reserved.  I admit, it surprised me to see so many pedestrians at the same time.

The team that was sharing the road with us was a catholic group from a local parish.  We started talking and exchanging our values.  I was glad to hear one of the persons say, "We all believe in the same God".

The experience was so novel.  Never in my years of marathon walking did I randomly encounter a group of people in prayer or meditation, walking!  In India it is quite common to see folks on pilgrimage walking around Govardhan Hill or people on the route to famous Tirupati, and, of course,  walkers on the famous Camino in Spain.  You would expect pilgrims in these places but here in New Jersey?  It was fascinating to see.  I guess you could say that our two groups, the catholic group with the rosaries and we devotees of Lord Krishna with our japa beads, were inspiring each other.

After a sunny morning and an early afternoon of walking, which included trekking over brittle leaves through the woods, our crew drove to Philadelphia to the ISKCON center where I spoke about transcendence from the Bhagavad Gita, verse 14.26.

Let’s get genuinely transcendental.

May the Source be with you!

22 miles / 35 km

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Saturday, November 7th, 2015
Mansfield, New Jersey

New State

Yes, we moved to a new state this morning - New Jersey - after crossing the Delaware River at Easton.  From there, our route was on highway 52 and then 57.  Counting today, there are only four days ahead of us before coming to the finish line at Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan.  It will be something worth rejoicing for.

3:00 pm was the cut-off time for departing to the Big Apple (New York City), specifically 26 Second Avenue, the location of the first formal spiritual gathering held by Srila Prabhupada, our guru, in 1965, 50 years ago.  In many ways, the room at this address has not altered since that time.  At 5:30 pm people were trickling in during my lead on the kirtan.  An intro was presented by Atma Nivedan, a community member in this place.  The verse of the Bhagavad Gita that I was speaking from was 10.8.  In this text, it is expressed that a sincere seeker of the truth realizes the power of the Divine and responds by rendering service.  Yes, it is service to Krishna, who is within all of us, from where the perfection of life begins.

It was a fine list of questions that people came up with after the talk.  After a rich devotional meal, our crew made our way around the corner to the Bhakti Center where we were catching the last minutes of the Govardhan puja festival.  What are you supposed to do when eating at two places, one after the other, relishing such good food?

Going to and fro through New York by vehicle can be a challenge.  NYC is a somewhat foreign place to us all and we ended up there very late at night because of the events.  Our final destination for our accommodation was in central New Jersey at the home of Virat and Purva.  I took my final shower before retiring for the day and discovered a tick in my left shoulder. How did that come about?  Are those little things still active in November?  Tre’von and I had taken a snooze on the grass between some blue spruces and that is likely where the little fellow took on.  All and all, we had a great day. Krishna is kind.

May the Source be with you!

22 miles / 35 km

Monday, 9 November 2015

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Friday, November 6th, 2015
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Surprises at Sizes

Hosting our team is Dhir Krishna.  He's originally from North India and is now residing in Reading, Pennsylvania.  He and his family opened their house to us for a good night’s sleep, prasadam meals, and a program the previous night of chants and discussions from the Bhagavad Gita.  We spoke from chapter 10, text 11, about the power behind instinctiveness. 
Well received!
There’s a general power behind the instinct, intuition, creativity, inspiration, and so on.  The Gita addresses this and gives credit to the paramatma
Please explore.
Now for the walking.  Our team was surprised at the size of Allentown and it's twin town, Bethlehem.  There’s people in these places.  One young Afro-American chap was curious when he cast eyes on my robes. 
“A religion or something?” he asked. 
“A spiritual tradition with roots from India.  I’m walking a 900 mile plus trek to represent the tradition, one that promotes peace and simplicity.” 
Another Afro-American dude pulled over from driving.  “Hey, I saw your aura and I had to stop and ask…”  He described himself as a director of films.  He wanted to take a picture.  When he came out of the car, his size and height were revealed.  He could have easily passed for a champ basketball player.
At Overlook Park, Chaz, from News 69 TV, came over for an interview.  This guy was a pro at what he was doing.  He could practically do acrobatics with his camera.  It was inspiring to see this.  I was pretty stiff at the time.  The interview was broadcast on TV on the 6 PM news.  Let’s see how motorists react to the broadcast tomorrow about a Hare Krishna monk who is doing some walking to the extreme.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 34 km

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Thursday, November 5th, 2015
Fogelsville, Pennsylvania


Recently I’ve been lucky if you can consider luck as a principle of reality.  Or, let’s say I was a recipient of kindness in the form of new pairs of shoes.  A box was sent from Florida by Ananta Sesa, a financialist.  The contents of the box were a pair of Keen shoes which are sturdy and airy.  We also managed to pick up a package that came from Pittsburgh.  Our dear friends Nitya Dita and Siksastaka delivered a pair of Oofos shoes which are light, soft, and bouncy.  Along with my current sandals (complements from an admirer in Spain), I can now interchange between varieties of footwear and make the ends of my two lower limbs happy.

While trekking Old Route 22, right next to Interstate 81, I received a good response from the motorists.  A man named Lance pulled over on the road right next to a pond where a pair of celestial-like swans were gliding.

He said, “My fiancée saw you passing by our home so I’m here to find out about you”.

We chatted.

I received a ride offer from Rob who was coming back from his work.  Of course, I declined.

Another young guy who was working on the road side and kicking fallen leaves from the sycamore tree was picking up traffic cones when he saw me.  I then introduced myself as a person sometimes referred to as a ‘moving traffic cone’.  He then remarked, “Ah, the colour! The colour you are wearing…”.  We laughed and chatted.

And near the Old 22 was a highway where a road construction crew was busy at work.  Some of those workers started moving traffic cones and gave hand waves and nods of approval for me to pass.  Wait a minute, did I say construction crew? Let me rephrase, it was more like a group of cheerleaders.

Andrew from TV 69 came to interview me as I was ambling alone on the last mile.  It was a day when you couldn’t feel neglected.

May the Source be with you!

22 miles / 36 km

Friday, 6 November 2015

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015
Strausstown, Pennsylvania

It Looked Like

It looked like a scene from ‘Gone with the Wind’.  There was a scarlet-red sky on the sunrise as we were walking on the road.  We approached a hill so the intensity of redness was half concealed. Tre’von was the first one to hear the sound of a horse’s gallop on the asphalt.  He, Mandala and I saw, as we ascended the hill, an actual horse, a carriage, and a passenger, an Amish man in a broad sunhat spurting just before us in rapid motion.  The horse reacted swinishly, surprised by our sudden presence.  We observed a magical silhouette with the passenger pulling the reins.  It was like Rhett Butler controlling an excited horse with flames and blaze in the background.  Wow!

There were numerous interactions with people since the weather was so conducive.  We met one mild-mannered man by the side of the road who was tending to his crop of white cedar.  We went into conversation.  The first topic was about young trees, then about the walking mission, and then about monks.

“Do monks believe in Jesus?”

“Yes, most definitely”.  (He lived like one).

“Do monks believe he is the son of God?”

“Yes.  God is the father so that makes Jesus the son”.

“But, for salvation, you need Jesus”.

“That principle we accept. You can’t receive salvation on your own. We need help”.

From here I dared not to get into further communication where one can be sure of a one-way scenario.  So it was time to wish this man well with his tree nursery.  I had to move on.

A glorious end to the day was at Gita Nagari Yoga Farm where I presented to the local folks who we met along the way for the last four days.  

This is the fruit of our endeavour.  Humans should come together to hear and discuss something spiritual, to chant, to eat and to leave for home with an enhanced richness and with books and beads in their hands.  

May the Source be with you!

24 miles / 39 km

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
Jonestown, Pennsylvania

Teacher on the Road

From Herr Street and 17th Avenue in Harrisburg, I moved to Walnut Street, then to Highway 22, and finally along Jonestown Road to the town under that actual name.  The trip began the way I like it, nice and early at 4.30 am.  I went along some retail streets with stores and plazas and finally reached the countryside.  At one point I was reminded of the power of chanting from a signage in front of a Christian church.  There was a quote from the Book of Romans: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”.

“Ok!” I thought, “I’m walking and chanting and not just walking”.

The sun came on strong and the temperature rose to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, unusual for early November.  I’m not complaining.  The light frost that had occurred on some of the days in October turned the leaves to a maroon hue and left them brittle to the point that the rustling sound was very pronounced when an entity, mainly a creature of fur, moved across them.  No quiet way for sneaking around.

My walking crew joined me eventually.  Vivasvan drove Tre’von and Mandala to the spot from where I walked to Swarata Creek.  I caught a nap there before forging ahead for the last trekking of the day to the east side of Jonestown.  

Tre’von is taking my lessons on Sanskrit songs and so I guess I could say I’m a teacher on the road.

May the Source be with you!

25 miles / 40 km

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Monday, November 2nd, 2015
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

I Met Ben

I met Ben, a cyclist who worked for TESCORP in Zambia.  He stopped cycling for a bit just to talk to me.  He was curious about my clothes and, interestingly enough, he was familiar with the Bhagavad Gita, the most widely read philosophical classical text from India.

I was also fortunate to meet Charles at the West Susquehanna River.  He was also nice  Kind of a relic of a hippie, I would say.  He had read the book, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and was very much impressed.

“It was insightful”, he said.

But he expressed some disagreement with the worship aspect of the yoga culture.  He also said that he was not entirely excited about the worship practices of the local Buddhists in town.  He also denied the personality of God and simply wanted to settle with the universe.

“So you appreciate the universe, right?” I asked.

He agreed.

“Just appreciation alone is a form of worship in the mind.  It doesn’t require any special instrument to make use of it,” I expressed.

Charles certainly affirmed that he was an admirer of George Harrison and his music. We parted on great terms.

Two women, both with the same name, Christie, pulled over.  They recognized us from reading the article in the ‘Altoona Mirror’.  They were thrilled.

Amanda from the Patriot News came to meet us and take some photos on the bridge over the Susquehanna.  She was very creative with her camera and she was a beautiful and inquisitive person.

Lunch was at Nam Dev’s, a prominent member of our community in Harrisburg.  There, I met two of his employees who have become quite intrigued with the bhakti (devotional) approach to life.

Tre’von was a real hero.  He stuck by me practically every step of the way.  The temperature reached over the 60 degree Fahrenheit mark.  We both acknowledged that the power from above, Krishna, was with us, giving us His mercy on the walk.

May the Source be with you!

24 miles / 38 km

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Sunday, November 1st, 2015
Alinda, Pennsylvania  

Pain and Pleasure

Our walking party of three did more like sneaking along the highway.  It wasn’t exactly like riding on the back of the celestial serpent Vasuki.  Rather, it was quite an endeavour going through the mountainous area.  I would give credit to the engineers and construction crew who laid the asphalt that was good and recent.  Was there a shoulder to the road?  Hardly!  After an hour of puffing and panting, the road finally leveled off.  The traffic picked up eventually after the long Sunday morning slumber that followed Halloween adventures from the night before.

Each and everyone of us, the walkers, is encountering some pain.  Tre’von has an issue with his back and his right knee, Mandala has a muscle spasm in his right ankle, and Vivasvan, although not walking too much being our support driver, talks about an aggravating tick that he has burrowed into his thigh.  As for myself, well, I’m breaking in a new pair of shoes and there are some issues with my hamstring.  The shoes are good but it takes some time to adjust to them.  This evening a doctor and congregant from our community in Harrisburg will be diagnosing us and offering recommendations.

At one point in the walk, I grew fatigued and decided to go for a nap by the side of the road.  Tre’von was with me and was watching over me.  Sure enough, a concerned motorist pulled over. 

“What’s going on?”

We must admit, we looked a little bit odd on the Pennsylvania landscape.  Here you have this dude with dreads, Tre’von, and myself in complete orange in a horizontal position.  Anyway, the motorist went away somewhat satisfied by Trevon’s brief explanation.

By 2:30 pm, we left from Sherman Creek, the location for our final steps of the day.  Vivasvan picked us up and drove us to Harrisburg where the local Vaishnava community has recently acquired a church.  I spoke on verses 51-53 from chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita regarding the ways to seek self-realization.  No doubt, the ego is the major obstacle and that we addressed.

I was really impressed by the enthusiastic dancing one man performed during the kirtan.  Overall, I perceived a happy bunch here.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles/ 32 km

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Saturday, October 31st, 2015
Port Royal, Pennsylvania

Got To The Farm

Pandu, a father of six from the local area, decided to try to trek for a few hours.  We were all bundled up to address the 28 degree Farenheit temperature.  Moving upwards on an ascending road caused us to sweat to pieces and before long took off as many clothes as we had put on. 
Pandu covered a good 15 miles with us, which included a walk through one of those iconic east coast covered bridges.  Then, we all came to another milestone for this walk, the place called Gita Nagari Yoga Farm, a rural haven.  Here we were greeted by earnest kirtan performers, the young, old, and the strong.  Among them was Nandi, a young man from New Zealand and a tender to the bulls.  He brought along a massive one, a brown Swiss breed, to be part of the greeting. 
Our greeters followed our walking troupe all the way to the country-style temple of Radha Damodar.  It became a lively spiritual procession.  The bull also came along and even performed a dance step to the best of his ability. 
Also, since yesterday, we gained some unique company in the form of a cat who tagged along by our side for two miles.  Who the owner might be, we had no clue, so we allowed him to join the crew.  He became our fifth team player.  This predominantly black cat was sweet and lovable.  He would hardly make a sound.  That evening we were determined to leave him at the farm but in the morning as we were packing and setting ourselves up for the day’s trek, he requested us in his own way to be ‘one of the boys’.  We even gave him a name, Raj, which means ‘king’.  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your relative outlook, during a segment of our stepping along on this quiet back road, his majesty got distracted, left us, and was not to be seen again.  He’s entitled to his own adventures, after all, he is the king. 
Two women from the Gita Nagari community joined us for the last leg of our walk.  One of the ladies narrated her story, that when she was young she had contemplated suicide. At one point she was preparing herself to jump from a high elevation.  Now, she had been following Buddhism and she had heard that Buddha was an incarnation of Krishna.  At that critical moment, she made a plea to Krishna within herself calling for help.  She decided against giving up, sought some followers of Krishna, stayed with them, and never left. 
Good girl!  Stick with it and don’t follow the path of Raj, the cat. 
May the Source be with you!
21 miles / 33 km

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Friday, October 30th, 2015
Blacklog Valley, PA

Police Again

A man in a pick-up truck was passing by where Vivasvan was parked.  He rolled down his windows and warned him, “I’ll give you a heads up. The police are back there and they caught some prisoners”.

Vivasvan was wondering if this was the same scenario repeating itself again - The Walking Monk, wearing orange, has been mistaken for an escaped convict.

Sure enough, that was the case.  The police had received complaints from some suspicious people.  Two officers came to the place where Tre’von, Mandala and I were trekking.  I asked one officer if they could please notify all the police stations across the state of Pennsylvania about what we are doing so that we could avoid these kind of encounters in the future.

“I’m rather harmless”, I said facetiously.

“Of course you are”, expressed the officer, a little embarrassed.

The second officer volunteered to say, “Well, it is Halloween time but things still happen.  A few years ago we got a report that someone saw a hand sticking out of a car trunk.  We thought it was a prank but when we investigated it, it happened to be an actual body”.

What he was saying is that these things do occur; it is not simply that people watch too many horror movies.

Today I was also involved in a presentation at the religious department of Juniata College with Professor Susan Prill.  I was asked to speak about Krishna consciousness and ecology.  I quoted the first verse from the text, Sri Isopanisad:

“Everything animate or inanimate in this world is owned and controlled by the Supreme Lord.  Every living being is entitled to his or her individual quota and should not accept more than necessary, knowing well to whom everything belongs”.

One interesting thing that Professor Prill pulled out for us was an 18th-century, page-by-page, handmade, calligraphic presentation of the Bhagavata Purana with Sanskrit script and one-of-a-kind paintings.  We were somewhat wowed by that.

As far as the students were concerned, the response was very satisfying.  Some of the students insisted that they wanted to do some walking, and we happily received their company. Professor Prill also joined us.  She is very cool and she is also a vegetarian.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles / 33 km

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
Mapleton, Pennsylvania

Mapleton By The Sand Mill

I had just trudged through thorny brush, gone up and down a steep ridge, through a low creek, over some train tracks, and finally on to a road which lead me to a porch of someone by the name of Jim.  It was here that I asked Jim, “Where am I?”  And Jim, rather delighted to be asked by a man in orange, responded, “You’re on Callowhill Street.”  Out came his mother, his senior by 17 years (both are rather elderly), to join us.  She was very startled to see me.  She went back inside the house and then returned with the ‘Daily News’.  “You’re on the front page.”
I had challenged the off-the-route trail to rediscover an old one, one that included a quaint iron bridge over the highway.  After a few warm moments with Jim and his mom, she asked me about my origin. 
“Ontario,” I said, which was followed with a remark,
“Toronto!  The Blue Jays!  They beat my New York Yankees.”  I admitted to not following baseball.  In any case, I admit that a game of any sort brings people together. 
Vivasvan, Mandala, and I, accepted an invitation from Daniel Hugh at the end of the day’s trek.  His place happened to be only two doors away from Jim’s in the small town of Mapleton.  Daniel works for correctional services.   We chatted at his home and sipped on apple cider.  Funny, but it was the first day since beginning this trek from Boston that I could not find an apple tree.  So here we were, sipping on apple cider.  Daniel also just got married.  Congratulations! 
The other major encounter with a human soul was with Dane who had just come up from down the river where he caught an 18 inch bass.  Another congratulations.  “Do take my card and enjoy the mantra on the reverse side.”  I left him leaving with what I consider a gift.  There are a few items that sustain me on this walk – my team members, my legs, my guru, and the mantra.  Once in a while, I get a chance to snatch an apple off a tree.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles / 33 km

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
Williamsburg, Pennsylvania

For Mukunda

Today’s walk is dedicated to a monk who I adore very much.  Mukunda Goswami is his name.  He is currently in intensive care in the hospital in Australia struggling for his life.  I believe he is 73.

To tackle this day, which I held in honour of this great soul, I approached it (and the heavy rain) as a kind of sacrifice.  Along with Tre’von and our new team player Mandala, we took out our best water-resistant attire.  I even surrendered to wearing trousers and a plastic rain shell for practicality.  It wasn’t easy move through the unstoppable waters coming from the sky.  The liquid fell from above and didn’t let up until the last hour of my walking when I was alone.  Frankly, I felt that the three of us were like men at sea.

When my two companions pulled off the road to put a warm meal together (compliments to Paul for offering the use of his kitchen in his Bed & Breakfast), I ventured through the Lower Trail along the Juniata River.  Not a soul could be seen.  The rain seems to intimidate many creatures, except for some happy plants that I could see along the way.  The river’s waters rushed forward in a way that was inspiring but I just couldn’t keep to the pace of the flowing H2O.  Despite all efforts to stay dry, wetness still came through.  What to do?  You just have to accept it as an austerity.  And again, I’m doing this for Mukunda.

While water was very much the main feature of the day, the mantra emanating from the lips penetrated through all the predominating fluids.  Motorists somehow seemed to figure out that my walking had something to do with Russ O’Reilly’s article in the ‘Altoona Mirror’ as well as a broadcast on a local radio station.  The message was, “If you see a monk and believe in honouring our teachers, then give a honk.”  And that they did.

May the Source be with you!

19 miles \ 31 km