Wednesday 25 April 2018

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Nick Came

It was really pleasant having Nick over from St. John, New Brunswick.  He and his wife, Sara, run a Krishna Centre there. People are responding really well in that small city, with a  population of about  150,000 in the area.

Nick came over early for the morning sadhana, arriving at 5:00 o’clock for a purifier.  At that time, I was reading from the Bhagavad-gita, a passage from Chapter One: Observing the Armies. Verse 15 goes like this, “Sri Krishna blew His conch shell, called Pancajanya; Arjuna blew his, the Devadatta, and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of herculean tasks, blew his terrific conch shell, called Paundra.”

The above verse addresses the goings-on on the field of battle, when action was about to begin.  Conches were blown by warriors to indicate, “We are ready and able.  We are about to start.”

Nick came over to start his day, not armed with conches but with beads and an open heart. The morning sadhana completed, after a bite to eat, we sat down to discuss how we can effectively approach the New Brunswick public and take charge.  It doesn’t require the blowing of any horns, but some promotion through the internet. What is not tackled these days through cyberspace?

If we want to inform, alert or announce something of value, then we communicate with the use of current weaponry, but we can only be as effective in this communication as we are strong in our preparation.  Through sadhana we can prepare. Through sadhana we can purge and show power.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Walkers Not Safe

Well it looked like a bright day.  The sun was ever present.  And in Toronto the public was excited about their team, the Maple Leafs hockey team, going for the play-offs.  They just had to win the game against the Boston Bruins in order to remain in those play-offs.  I know this because when Jai and I took our walk, on what appeared to be the best day of the year, a pedestrian, a woman, wore a Maple Leafs sweatshirt and she filled us in. Other residents also wore proudly the blue and white shirts.  The team did win, 3 to 1.

Then the bright day went dark.  I received calls from Vancouver, Calgary, Hawaii, Montreal and elsewhere.  People were talking on the street saying, “Yonge and Finch.”  That location became the scene of a cowardly crime, something that shook the earth, leaving people with disbelief.  “What! In Canada?  Toronto?”

A maniac got behind the wheel of a van, drove on pedestrian turf and mowed down innocent walkers, leaving ten dead and fifteen injured.  It became dark for this reason.  I called my sister, Pauline, who lives in that region.

“Are you okay, Pauline?”

“Yes, I was walking in that very area one hour before the incident.”  She was grateful to be alive.

So now is prayer time for the innocent folks who left this world in an untimely manner.  I call on all to pray/chant for these souls and for the suspect, now in police custody for this heinous act.  We never thought it would happen in our backyard.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Too Good

They were singing that song from Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons—“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”  That was the other day.  A group of adolescents went at it at the top of their lungs while walking down Walmer Street, perhaps in celebration that Spring had finally arrived.  The sun had shone that day.  The temperature was fine and perhaps love was in the air.

It did strike my curiosity how the group of millennials knew that sixties song. Anyway…

Excitement was in the air, today, again.  I recruited, rather spontaneously, a group of congregants to take a trek down the ravine in passing by Evergreen Brickworks and beyond. Just about everyone was out to honour this most attractive of seasons—spring. Bursts of colour were to gaze at—everything from flowers to intense orange goldfish.  People were attentive in three ways: to nature, to themselves in conversation, and finally to other pedestrians.  

And I also burst out, saying to my companions, “Really, this is the way it should be—everyone going about in a leisurely way.  And a personal desire, or dream, is if just one day out of the year, we could just mobilize ourselves through walking.  NO CARS!  Absolutely none!  Wouldn’t that be Vaikuntha(heaven)?”

It was also a great day to launch the season for Ratha Yatra,the Chariot Fest.  In our temple room, a yajna(sacrifice) was executed.  It involved a fire display and feeding that fire with herbs and spices.  It was very festive and engaging and… “it was too good to be true.”

May the Source be with you!
8 km

Monday 23 April 2018

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Brighton, Ontario

At Farms

We arranged a sangha for farmers in the Brighton area and its objective was to support socially the noble initiative of a simple lifestyle.  It happened at two locations close to each other.  Some of us came from the city to go to the country and get a taste of what moksha—liberation from the body—might have a resemblance of. I'm rather serious when I say that.

What a relief it was from urban madness!

First we got acquainted with the animals at Jai and Rasa’s place.  Goats, zebu cows, bulls, even a white and warm turkey gave us their company. She just sits there like a pure white snowball.  She loves to be petted.  Then we dove into a potluck meal in the rustic setting of their home, situated on Old Shelter Road.

The second venture was to a kale chip factory http://solarrawfood.comwith a kirtanin the upstairs studio.  Extolling the glories of life with plants and animals became the subject of discussion. Also, what can a small rural community do to impact a chaotic world?  Is it even possible to go closer to the basics?

A number of us felt the sun’s embrace in a much craved-after break from winter. We indeed went for that walk on a rural trail. In general we all benefitted from the breath of fresh air, especially near the manure pile.  Nostrils broadened and expanded.

The plants haven’t as yet risen but the animals in both locations demonstrated their individual personalities, which made it all totally entertaining.

Oh yes, and bulbs of asparagus were dug up and distributed. 
That was nice.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Editor’s Note: Solar Raw Kale chips are sold across Canada and available in many grocery and drug stores. The business is devotee owned and operated. 

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

People of Beliefs

“Jesus loves you!” said the bearded fellow while I was walking on Bloor.

“I know he does,” I responded.

“He’s coming!” he persisted.

“I’m aware.”

“Yah gotta prepare yourself,” he said.

With my beads in hand, which I lifted up, I remarked, “I am!  See!”

That exchange more or less culminated my walk with Jai, which went for a good hour and a half, up through Little Korea and back.  The bearded bro was really determined and he was the second person of my day who demonstrated a strong conviction of purpose.

The first person was Henry, whom I hadn’t seen for twenty-five years.  He came to visit Govinda’s restaurant at which time he decided to come upstairs and knock on my door.  Somehow or other we got to talking about the world situation, the secularization of it, the breakdown of family, and a future globe of alienation and loneliness.

Henry is firm in his belief of Brave New World and 1984; both novels reveal a future of control and horror.  Henry is this truly nice guy who’s visited India about eighteen times and is rather thoughtful.  Both he and I ended up on the same page regarding conspiracy theories.

Our, guru, Srila Prabhupada, offered a solution to a troubled world ahead, and that is to get serious about spiritual life, build rural communities, etc.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Sunday 22 April 2018

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Become Light

Every morning is relishable for me—when not experiencing jet lag—as it begins with a mangal arati, a service involving chant and dance. It is at a surprising hour of 4:30 a.m.. Surprising—only for those who haven’t experienced that magical hour in a state of wakefulness.

Another special time this last week was just sitting down to hear a different speaker, each morning, delivering a class with discussion from the 10thCanto of the book Bhagavatam.  The topic involves the activities of the Divine Most High.  

What is God saying to souls who are pure?

What is that conversation all about?

To make the day even lighter, I opened my file cabinet—I’m on drawer Number 2—and pulled out irrelevant, dated material.  This is called ‘spring cleaning’.  It is like karmabeing lifted.  The sensation is great.

Finally, for the last few days I’ve gone out on that evening walk.  Tonight Tom accompanied me down Yonge Street.  I pointed out to him the corner of Yonge and Bloor, where forty-five years ago I was stopping people to get their attention and show them the Bhagavad-gita.  If they showed interest they would purchase and I would be thrown into ecstasy.

We walked further south to the corner of the iconic place of “Sam the Record Man.” In the sixties just everyone had to go to Sam’s.  I used to meet Sam, a prominent Jewish business fellow.  He was nice to me and would give a smile.

Nostalgia can also make you light (lit) when the memories are sweet.

What you do now will be nostalgia for tomorrow.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Choices of Trails

Before we go for that afternoon stroll we decide the route to take.  We have the options: a busy retail strip, a quiet residential area or a trail/path in the woods.  It’s one of those very important decisions in life, isn’t it?  Well, not really.  Where you go is not paramount but what is, is the fact that you go.

Guru Prasad, Tom and I were determined to go along the quiet streets of Rosedale, a neighbourhood of fine Victorian homes.  Thank God there is never a rush hour to deal with in this neighbourhood. There is no major thoroughfare. It is an enclave of winding roads, very conducive to a leisurely walk.

And that it was.  Also, the air was fresh and clean, a blessing after the freak storm.  The three of us were happy about the choice made for our walking venue.  There was shanti(peace).

The other day, at the Yoga Show, a fellow asked me something about choice in the realm of yoga.  He first asked what form of yoga I practise and teach.

“Bhakti yoga,” I said.

“Is that like raja yoga, dhyana yoga, astanga, etc…?  Aren’t they all different paths?”

When he asked that question I tried to clarify.

“These various paths are all on the same track, one leads to another and they culminate into bhakti yoga.  But if you can take a more direct trail then you can avoid taking all these trails that wind around and eventually loop back to the original, direct route.”

“Bhakti means devotion.  It is very beautiful.”

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

In Awe    

Well, we walked by a gallery window
And what did we see
A painting of a bison
My mind was full of glee

I was transported to Alberta
Where a herd was close to me
Twas the walk of ‘96
Sacred herd, oh so free

I lie down in their grasses
Tired from the road
They gawked at me so curious
Right there in their abode

And I gave a good stare at them
Inquisitive as hell
The feeling was so mutual
We looked, as in a spell

The herd was awful big, my friend
And they stood there oh so still
Until I made a jerk, and then
The alpha feared, “Don’t kill!”

They followed him in awesome haste
Shaking earth with hooves
The dust stirred up so high, oh yes
They vanished by the hill of blues.

© Bhaktimarga Swami 2018 

May the Source be with you!
5 km 

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

New Monk

A new monk has come to town.  Dwarkanatha, 29, is from Vrndavana, India, and he recently has joined our crew to help in the cooking department.  Apart from being a chef, he also plays a lovely sitar and is quite good at the mrdungadrum.

From the musical side, it is a relief.  When here, I'm the one to play the beats, but now I can enjoy a break and have a realdrummer play away.

When weather improves, I’ll take him to the nearest ravine to experience a taste of urban-green walking.  It will be novel for him, being in a modern Canadian setting.  Even flying overseas is a first for him.

I am left to reflect on my first journey, not by plane, or by boat—when I was 5 my mother took me to Holland by one of those ocean liners—but my first experience in a temple.  It was like a foreign zone, something like church, but more.  I felt so much joy cut off from mundane-ness.

That initial journey was in Montreal, the winter of ’72, when Krishna devotees had rented a spot on the third floor of an apartment building on Park Avenue.  It was actually a former bowling alley.  The markings of the bowling parameters were still there.  In those days no one sang Bol! Or even Haribol!

A friend of mine, Durward, also had his first venture into Krishna culture in Montreal. He tells me that in that old bowling alley a person, a visitor, had set up a tent inside and had his pet iguana with him.  That was novel too.  In those days it was rather more of an open door policy.  Anyways, welcome Dwarkanatha.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

April 15thin Toronto

April is very deceptive.  Just when you think spring has burst through, or is about to, then a merciless storm crushes all you want to do.  They have reported over a thousand accidents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  There are high winds, and piercing-cold pellets of rain coming down, leaving a precarious situation at ground level. Slush!  Mush!  It’s weather that bends things out of shape—your windshield wipers, for instance.

Billie and I trudged through the mess.  Its newly-formed mountain ranges and rivers, we attempted to navigate through to get to our destination—the Convention Centre and to the ever-popular Yoga Show.

Most attendees are downtowners who braved the weather.  They are not discouraged.  They are here to see people bend, but not out of shape,rather in shape.  There was a session of ecstatic dance.  It only needed a mantra to make it complete and qualify it as kirtan.  Someone by the name of Sandeep gave a free head massage.  Oh, and I met friends I hadn’t seen in years.  It was a stupendous event lasting for three days. I like the yogis as much as they like our food (prasadam).  Many yogis also like kirtan.

Billie went around with mantra cards promoting kirtanand the monthly “Evening of Bhakti.”  Thank you Billie.  Thank you Demi, for co-ordinating the food section.  Many heroes emerged from the kitchen department of Krishna food distribution.  Thousands were fed.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

At the Yoga Show

We had to cancel our spring Farmer’s Conference, which was to be held in Brighton, Ontario, due to sleet and icy rain.  It is postponed until next Saturday, April 21st.  By default, I then redirected myself to the attention of the Toronto Yoga Show held at the Convention Centre.  To my delight, the attendance was great, despite the occurring weather.  Where do all these people come from? I had to ask myself.

Although the numbers of people were phenomenal and the draw to the event has much to do with wellness, simply stretching limbs in tight clothes has its limitations.  Of course there are some great products for sale by exhibitors and there is also the food court, with Govinda’s being one terrific food outlet.  The line-up is long.  Apparently people like the prasadam(blessed food).

What really made me feel complete about the event was the presence of kirtanconducted by the Gaura Shakti group.  The set-up took a while for their hour-long allotted time, but once the band began their songs, the massive hall at the convention centre, the entire place, transformed in sound.  People sang and got up to dance.

I was also pleasantly surprised by meeting Adrien, a massage therapist.  Why so?  I met him on the Trans-Canada Highway in 2012 when I was in stride, walking, and he was in a van supporting a cyclist’s club who were travelling across Canada, raising money for a charity.

“Are you The Walking Monk?” he inquired, when he met me near the food court.  From that question was triggered a recollection of the instance on the highway.  “And you had that guy with the parrot?”

“Yes, Billie, the parrot.”

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

On This Day

I never in my life held any superstitious attitudes toward Friday the 13th. However, in a Vedic context, when it is said by some astrological authority that one is under the influence of the dark planets, Rahu and Ketu, I take it a little more seriously.  I personally survived a period of my life, said to be a Rahu period.  It wasn’t nice and I won’t go into minute detail.  What is important was how I approached this negative period.  I started a long walk to the distance of 8,000-plus kilometres on Canadian soil.

That was in 1996.  I also took to a lot of chanting.  Many days, it was 64 rounds on the japabeads.  The combination of walking, chanting and some speaking opportunities/engagements kept me going.

It was this afternoon that I took a mini-walk with Dave, not to counteract any ill omens of bad fortune Friday the 13thmight bring—I already explained my position on this.  Dave and I strolled along some of the laneways of the posh shops of Yorkville, just for a break from what we were both doing.  Trying to bond a bit might be what we were trying to do.

Dave serves food at Govinda’s and does some of the dishes when needed.  I was administratively engaged.  So we walked and talked.  No chanting was done, but that’s okay.  The friendship building is what was important.

It was Dave’s idea to go for this first walk.  “I’ll take up your offer on it,” he told me.

“Really, when did I ask for the walk?” I hadn’t remembered I had done so.

“You wrote the invite to walk, on a card, and I've been keeping that card.”

“When did I leave you the card?” I asked.

“About five years ago,” he responded.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Saturday 14 April 2018

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

A Thirst for the Spiritual

Maybe I was a fool to dare weather with no overcoat, not even a light jacket, while on foot to Yonge and Queen—and all the way back.  I see everyone in some winter/spring attire.  I was informed that at 6:00 p.m. the temperature was 13°C.  It didn’t feel it to be quite that warm.  Maybe I am a polar bear braving what others might perceive as cold.  In any event, I started walking with just a slight chill but soon warmed up with no problem whatsoever.

The only thing to trouble me is the culture.  Am I getting old or something?  I’m looking at not a cold or cool climate but a cool bunch of people going up and down the street with seemingly nil purpose.  I’m taken aback by the lack of interaction with each other, but then when I walked some streets in Flacq, Mauritius, the other day, it wasn’t much different.  People there just go about their business, although there you have a strong Hindu population and pedestrians do respond to the saffron-clad, walking on their level, with some reverence, of course.

But look, there’s a man who breaks into all smiles as soon as he sees me—a Caucasian, not a Hindu.  Then as I plod along some blocks more, I get some pranamsfrom white folks, and “Hare Krishna” remarks from brown folks.  I’m happy for these people who greet, and for me, first of all, because I need attention and so do they.  I certainly don’t require the looks I get for my own ego, but I do adore the fact that attention is given for what I represent.  The attention is an indication that there is a ‘thing’ for the spiritual.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Dubai / Toronto

3 Gitas by 1

My return to Canada was okay.  Emirates airlines flew me back to Toronto, with so many other passengers, of course.  That means so much more luggage at the carousel upon reaching the Toronto terminal. The planes with Emirates are huge. It’s quite the battle for space when it comes to finding your cargo.  A little stress.

The trip is also a long one from Mauritius—6 1/hours to Dubai, a 5 hour wait in Dubai followed by 13 1/hour flight to Toronto.  A little more stress.

On these longer voyages, I like to take the Gita with me, but three instead of one.  First of all, I’ll carry Bhagavad-gita As It Iswith translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  In addition to this priceless piece, I also pack my smaller carry-on with Bhagavad-gita: Talks Between The Soul and Godby my dear friend and God-brother (Go-Bro), Ranchor Prime.  For a final squeeze-in, I have Gita Wisdomby Joshua Greene—aka Yogeshvara—also a dear friend and Go-Bro from New York.

The latter two translations are inspired by the first, and on their own they have the parent As It Is to package the message—the same one—in words inspired by each of them in a way which would appeal to different audiences.

I compare the notes.  In Dubai Airport, with leisure—also sleepy time—I looked up 5.18 from As It Is.  “The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle Brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.”  From Talks, it reads, “The wise see with equal vision a learned and gentle priest, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste.”  GitaWisdom, translates it as, “The wise see with equal vision all beings: a learned Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.”  All similar.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Rose Belle, Mauritius

Avocado Finish

There is a tiny centre, an actual house with temple facilities, near the Mauritius Airport, in Rose Belle.  The group running the centre asked if I would plant an avocado tree. How could I refuse?

Some space for trees is allotted along the edge of the land. The tree, which was no taller than a foot and a half, has a chance to rise in a short enough time.  One lady in the community said it might bear fruit after two years, so that’s not bad.  Remember, winters in Mauritius are warm.

While that little project was started, our stay in Mauritius was ending.  A last dip in the Indian Ocean, a farewell to actors who had come from various countries to help in the production of “Many Mothers, Many Fathers,” and good-byes to the local Mauritians, marked the end of my stay here.  Lovingly, a good number of them turned up at the airport for a last minute send-off.

The project—working with the Vaishnava youth—once again this year, had been successful through classes on bhakti, theatre workshops, staging a Shakti Show,and, overall, just being there for them. However, it was now over.  The comments from the local Krishna followers on what I had done as a conduit on behalf of guru and God was so positive.  A great visit it was, with the finishing touch of being handed a small shovel, a tree and some dirt.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Grande Bay, Mauritius

Together and Water

The soul that sits behind the ego always resists.  This is the condition of the spirit soul.  Surrender or submission to the Supreme is not the priority.

A few of us discussed this and other topics at Grande Bay, a place on the northern shore of the ocean.  It was a bonding time—community time (common unity)—for devotees from Phoenix and Bon Acceuil.  Sixty of us came together to picnic, swim, talk and look at the odd sea urchin.

We talked about the story of Sudhama and Krishna as classmates in school.  In the water, the men formed a circle and sang the guru prayers.  Tourists, some from France, took some interest in what we were up to.  I won’t forget the innovative percussion sounds we created just by the movement of our arms and hands.

I met Sanjay, a miserable man who runs the food booth, and asked for a mantra that would access him to money.  He had refused the maha mantrafrom others, but when he met the Swami—me—he decided not to resist, but to take it and have a go at it.

A second level of gatherings occurred at the Bon Acceuil temple where we read of, “Ill Motivated Dhrtarastra,” the blind king who couldn’t or wouldn’t allow a clear vision to be part of his life.  He was physically blind and spiritually blind.  He sat on a throne behind his ego.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday 13 April 2018

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Phoenix, Mauritius

People Coming Together

From an overnight stay at Haridev’s, a small group of us ventured through a quiet, gardened neighbourhood.  It was wet after an evening shower; typical weather dynamics since being here.  These massive spiders abound.  Intentionally permitted to trapeze their way through these enclaves?  Or not? I don’t know.  Are they there to protect the fruit from bugs?

Anyway, as Trump would say, “They’rehuuge!”

Some of the fruit trees were also covered with man-made mesh, apparently to protect the trees from bats with an appetite.

Today was the second day for our performance in the best theatre in Mauritius, the Serge Constantin Theatre, and we had a full house again at this matinee. Our play was preceded by an impressive mrdungadrum demo.  After that program, we proceeded to the ISKCON temple for a talk I led, based on the Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 10, verse 9.  This passage highlights the pleasure derived from keeping our conversations positive and spiritual.  The joy of this approach is also directed to the Divine.

On the same theme, we then held a sangha,in Flacq, focused on appreciation of each other’s part in the play. I mean, this was a real party—people were coming together to express their love for individual input in a project, which created a harmonious bubble of safety and satisfaction.

May the Source be with you!
5 km