Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Detroit, Michigan

Walking Monk and Goat Man Meet

Via Rail transported me to Windsor where I was picked up by Vivasvan, my support person for the first leg of my U.S. walk.  At customs, the officer became very animated when I mentioned I was going to a wedding.  “So you’re the high priest?” he asked me.

“Actually, I’m the ‘blesser’.”

“I hope the wedding goes well and the marriage.  It didn’t work out in my case.  I didn’t know that leaving the toilet seat up bothered her so much; just to give an example…”

I was a little concerned about the lineup queued behind us.  He finally let us go and gave good wishes.

Vivasvan, with family—Ananda Rupa and 2½ year old, Chaya—brought us to the kirtan spot outside the Cobo Center for the crowds at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival.  This event is a big deal for the youth who come to listen and party. Some folks, who walked by, slowed down to listen and then moved on, were in attire that is very un-monk-like.  In general, they liked the music and energy we were creating.  Only the amp/speaker we used was of an unplugged nature.

I met Erick Brown and his goat, Deer, who travel the U.S.  I heard about him when I was walking.

Erick, 31, who’s made a name for himself, was recently attacked, tied up, and his bank cards stolen.  Some of the devotees from the kirtanmentioned that Erick has been taking his goat on public transport.  Not everyone takes a liking to that.

Erick told me, “I walk and also take rides to get around.”  Apparently he bought an old school bus and travels with Deer in it.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Meeting People

My smartphone experienced some damage last Sunday on the Atlantic coast—Peggy’s Cove—when the top rock of an inukshuk fell on it, shattering the glass.  The incident warranted a ride—compliments of Nanda—to the phone clinic, and there, repairs were done; right here in Toronto.

The trip back to the ashram was a hot one, on foot.  As usual, I bump into people I know.  There was Dennis, who’s been coming for years to the temple.

There were new people; a homeless person who thought I was from Tibet and got to know of the mother culture to Buddhism, which is Vedic culture from India.

“I’m from Canada but go to India every year,” I said to him.

I met a woman who was walking behind me.  She sneezed from somewhat near.  I turned around.

“I’m not following you, just going to my apartment,” she said.

She pointed to a tree next to her apartment building and said that there’s the home of a woodpecker.  He taps all the time.  He found a girl-friend and now they’re going to have young ones, she said with quite the sense of confidentiality.  They live in a hole in the tree.

“He keeps tapping just like you guys do with your drums,” she said,  referring to Krishna monks making sound on our mrdungas.

Anyway, she was open and friendly, and that’s what counts.  Most people are willing to be our good friend, but talking about philosophy is not most people’s forte.  Let us encourage everyone to chant.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

I Hadn’t Seen

I hadn’t seen him for twenty years.  Naro is a third generation Krishna person.  His dad, Kuladev, is my godbrother.

I accidentally stumbled upon Naro at the Brickworks while on a longer than usual trek for the evening with Kevala and Karuna.  Naro was parked with his fancy, souped-up, old model of a car, which was giving him some trouble, and thus he had just finished doing some repairs.

I knew him when he was a boy of eight.  His body has changed, just like I’m sure his car’s body has been altered.  Such is the case according to the teachings of Sri Krishna in the Gita.  “The embodied soul continually passes from childhood to youth to old age.  The soul also passes at death…”

It was good to see a kid now be a man.  I anticipate he’s a good man.

“Take care, Naro!”

Kevala, Karuna and I kept walking to a well-maintained trail—the same one where I did all my training for marathon walking.

“It was in this general location that the idea of trekking the whole of Canada was born.” I mentioned this, as we had just passed under a railroad bridge with huge trees on both sides.

Once we reached near Mount Pleasant Boulevard, we came to a park and entered a park facility with washrooms, just for a break from our three-hour trek.  The building was a forties style, now up for renovation.

Everything requires a reno, these bodies, and at some point, the building or body changes altogether.

May the Source be with you!
12 km

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Markham, Ontario

God is With You

Another late afternoon and a small number of us gathered in Ramsden’s Park for a chanting session of mantrason the grass.  Some folks came over to sit or stand in our circle to participate.  It was awesome.

From there, I managed a short distance of walking toward the subway entrance at Sherbourne and Bloor.  To the end of the line I went, in the packed underground train.  At least the subway train moves.  On ground level you get little speed from 6 – 7 p.m.  It’s a nightmare.

At the passenger pick-up, I was received by a driver sent by Dhira Nitai, who hails from Sri Lanka.  I asked him, “What’s the occasion for having me over?” once I reached his apartment.

“A celebration!  You and I used to heat soup, salad, and pizza after a successful day of fund-raising for the summer Ratha Yatra.”

“Good cause!  Remember how we used to go to just about every Sri Lankan shop to help with donations? Recall the fish and the butcher shops?”

“Yes, they gave generously,” he said.

Then I thought how Krishna states in the Gitathat all people are eligible to serve.  Everyone can approach the Supreme destination, regardless of background.

Actually service for a Divine cause is all-attractive.  When I think of how sweet responses come from strolling people in the park, I know that everyone has this spiritual inkling.  It is all in how you present and approach the public. Act in such a way as to charm.  Then God is with you.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Halifax, Nova Scotia

At the Harbour

Myself and the boys—I call them boys because they are 21, 23 and 23—drove to Halifax’s waterfront to indulge in a gracious walk just as corporate folks started milling about.  It really is a nicely done up harbour.  It also has its history.  In 1917, a Belgian and French ship collided, with one bearing explosives.  On that foggy day their vision was obscured and the worst occurred.  No one had ever in the history of the world seen such devastation from explosives—before the bombing in Japan.

It is remarkable that the city resurrected.  At the end of the harbour promenade is the pier where so many immigrants landed by boat over the decades—people searching for a new life.

When our early trek was completed, we resumed a seat in the van.  A breeze from the ocean was setting in.  Marshall, one who’s 23, made wraps for us with the ingredients hummus, olives, avocado, peppers and fiddleheads, while I was reading from Prahladananda Swami’s book, “Hope This Meets You in Good Health.”

For us monks, it was interesting.  The topics include physical health, letters from our guru, Srila Prabhupada, on the topic, and it also touches on Vedic astronomy and astrology.  I read a section on celibacy, which is pertinent to the crew I was with.

However, for everyone’s appeal—I assume—here is a small excerpt from the astrology section:

In summary we have different planets and their influences on the consciousness of the soul:

Sun-ego (one’s identity) / Moon-mind (desire for peace) / Jupiter (mission how to achieve peace and happiness) / Saturn (duties to be done to achieve mission) / Mars (determination, conviction and courage to perform duties) / Venus (enthusiasm required to achieve goal) / Mercury (results that come from assimilation of the qualities of the planets to achieve one’s goals).

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

At the Cove

Peggy’s Cove is one of those iconic places in Canada which is a destination point for tourists.  It’s a charmer of an old-time, quiet, fishing village.  Hordes of people come here to have a look and a feel.  The weather was perfect, above 20°C.  The sun was shining on the cove and all the visitors.

The three brahmacharis, Prana Gauranga, Bhakta Marshall, Bhakta Samuel, and myself decided to do our morning sadhanahere, and include breakfast, some kirtanand some boulder hopping.  We were smart about it and got there before the world descended on the place, doing the hopping—as mentioned—viewing the old lighthouse, and listening to the bag-pipers playing their melody.  We weren’t the only guys in skirts.  The highlanders wore kilts.  Buses of people on cruises came over, as well as motorists, bikers and cyclists.

Anyway, it was heaven at 8:00 a.m.  By 11:00 a.m., the huge, worn boulders looked like anthills, only here people were scurrying about on them.  The boys valued the place though, with its clean ocean air and everyone being in a great mood.

Back in Halifax at Yassin Saukar’s home, which is atop a hill, a satsangwas held at 5:00 p.m.  Father Alfred, from a local Catholic parish—who is in charge of three churches—came to listen and discuss matters of spirituality.  It was hard to see his deterioration of sight. He’s becoming blind, yet he appeared resilient in some way.  Discussions centred around the Gita’sexplanation of four seasons for coming to God, as well as the acceptance of God as both the Divine Father and Divine Mother.

I told of ‘Walking Tales’, naturally.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Connections with Victoria

This is a long weekend in honour of Queen Victoria.  In her 40,000 plus pages of diary, she mentions nothing about Canada’s independence from Britain in 1867.  Her father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was stationed in Halifax in the late 1700s at the Royal Navy’s North American headquarters, right here.

At the one end of Hemlock Ravine Trail, Prince Edward had a garden which is no longer there.  He also had a mistress, prior to his marriage and the birth of his daughter, Victoria. The two spent time at this former garden which is now a pond of water shaped like a heart.  Our friend, Cory, from Halifax, led us to the trail and then the heart-shaped pond.

Why the heart?  I think we can all guess.

An older couple told our walking group,, of today, part of the story of Prince Edward when he was younger and single.  “A mistress for over twenty years,” they said.

Cory was kind to take us down this exquisite trail.  A mix of hard and softwood trees pervade the forest here.  Cory also came with us to the Vedanta Society for an evening dance-chant-hear-and-speak program.  Victoria would have been pleased.  I understand she liked to dance.

The latest film about her centres on an infatuation she had for a Muslim man, Abdul Karim, whom she met in India, when she was widowed, and her later companion, John Brown, was also deceased.

Canadians are content to celebrate with a holiday on Monday—tomorrow.  Fireworks go off to honour the Queen of the British colonies, Canada being one.

I do believe that when your senses are tucked in, you are a king or a queen, in your own right—a hero of sorts.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, May 20th, 2018

Fredericton, New Brunswick

She Remembered

I met Mary from New Brunswick.  She remembered seeing me on the road years ago when she was in Grade 6.  We both calculated that the year was 1996.  She said something about seeing me from the school yard.  I guess it left a strong impression.

On the railway bridge, so many people trekked along.  I was happy to see people taking to the walking culture and taking it seriously.  After the bridge I veered left, next to Waterloo Row and Lincoln Road.  The pathway next to these streets is actually The Great Trail, established last year on Canada’s 150th, and, what is apparently, the longest trail on the globe.

A cyclist slowly passed by, “What’s shakin’ up, Buddy?  What’s shakin’ up?”

“Not a great deal,” I shouted as he cycled on with his son.  “Enjoy the long weekend.”  It’s Victoria Day weekend in Canada.

Our host at the Norfolk Motel, Sema, had fifty people over.  Most of the folks were Bengalis.  That always brings me close to my guru, Prabhupada, who hails from Bengal—Kolkata actually.

We had kirtantogether.  We reflected on Chapter 10 of the Gitawherein the opulence of the Absolute is detailed.  I also spoke about Prabhupada himself, his struggles in the beginning, his successes, and the relevance they have to the world.

Today’s audience was different.  Chanting mantrasand quoting from sastrais not unfamiliar to them.  I believe some of them stay tuned by watching panditsspeak their words broadcast directly from Kolkata.

From Fredericton, we drove the long haul to Halifax.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Goin’ to the Chapel and I’m Goin’ to Give a Message

The evening’s program was held at Holy Cross Chapel, on the St. Thomas University campus.  Like yesterday’s experience in Sussex, there were good vibes, good people and especially tonight, good questions.  The venue here was a different layout.  The boys and I stationed ourselves on the altar with its crucifix on the wall.  It was less conducive to dance, as was our format yesterday in the fitness centre.  The place was holy.

I capitalized tonight on walking pastimes and touched on, not only the spiritual power behind the practice of pilgrimage, but also the difference between trekking in Canada, as opposed to the U.S.

Questions from attendees rolled out most favourably.  I hardly receive any challengers in these events.  If one was to turn up, it would be fine, even if the boat would be slightly rocked.

Prana Gauranga, our monk from Quebec, made a stupendous pasta, garnished with olives and fiddleheads.  The prep was a big hit, and I wish we could have shared it with the universe.

I must mention that my dear friend, Professor Tom Parkhill, came to hear us in Sussex.  That night, Gary came, a local engineer, who had invited me to his office ten years ago, where he fed me a salad and also took interest in the walking project I was on when I came through the Fredericton area.

Tomorrow we are expected to meet a fairly close relative of Paramahamsa Yogananda, a woman who settled here in the city with her family.

All is good!  I'm lovin’ the Maritimes tour.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Sussex, New Brunswick

Billy Graham Crusader

I took a head start walking toward our evening’s destination which was Sussex, over an hour’s drive from our place at the Norfolk Motel.  A Billy Graham Crusade follower pulled over and started talking.  He had hordes of questions, not curious ones, but the type that might lead you into a trap if you did not answer according to his take on Jesus.  I found it fun, though.  The point is, he saw me—the second day in a row—and felt I needed to convert, that I needed Jesus.  Personally, I’m happy with Krishna and Jesus together.  He could only have one and not the other.

“Maybe I can challenge you this…” he started, and I politely cut him off.

“You see, it’s not a question of your camp or my camp.  We are running parallel, truly as one camp.”

Then he offered to say, “Yes, there’s one camp.  THE camp.  A camp.”

Then I butt in saying, “A camp. ‘A’ stands for ABSOLUTE.  We are both going for the Absolute.  It is not black and white.  We say in Sanskrit, achintya-beda beda tattva,which means we are onein purpose with slightly different approaches.  I will take your brochure.  Here’s mine—a mantra card.  God bless you!”

That was that!  I met more people in town.  A fellow in a wheelchair said, “I'm 71.”

“Well you look 35.”

“I wish girls would say that about me,” he said in glee.

A woman approached me.  “Do you have some change?”

“No, but I have a bottle of water.”  She laughed and shrugged it off. 

Finally, the boys (monks) picked me up for the Sussex program at a fitness studio. Well, we got ‘fit’.  We danced and chanted in community spirit.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Getting to Know Bear

“The recent floods in New Brunswick did a lot of damage,” said one fine lady on her way to work.  She showed us some pics, on her camera-phone, of how the Saint John River rose to the level of the foot bridge.  We chatted with her.  She really wanted to know about we four monks walking the bridge under a strong sun but chilling breeze.

A film company at one end of the bridge was on a music video assignment.  A guy was rapping out a song and we happened to get in the frame.

Our trekking lasted over two hours, going over foot bridges, over sand-ridge trails, and also circumventing puddles of relatively large magnitude.

All this walking happened in Fredericton, but it was back to Saint John where we truly shared with the public, at Uptown, the chanting.  OMG!  The folks here are so easy to approach.  They loved our cultural output of chanting with djembes and harmonium.

One admirer, Bear, by name, is a Mi’kmaq with some Irish blood in him.  He acquired that name when he was in the Northwest Territories and was attacked by a grizzly.  He showed me his permanent scars on his arms.  Luckily, he survived, and is alive to be with us on the grass, learning how to chant.  He’s a strong, husky type of guy, and is very eager to know about the Bhagavad-gita.

He followed us to the Wellness Centre for Presentation #2.  Bear went home with a book, “The Gita,” as well as beads, and wants to learn more and more.  I told him to seek help from Nick, who lives in Saint John. He will be an ideal coach for Bear. 

May the Source be with you!
10 km

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Saint John, New Brunswick

Something Wild and Delicious

At the Toronto Airport, I met a fellow from Saint John enroute to get back home.  He told me he was a driver.  I expressed my vocation—well, one of them.

“I’m a walker; did Canada four times.”

“How much do you walk in a day?”

“It used to be forty-two kilometres a day.  Now it’s twenty-four when I do the marathons.”

“You couldn’t catch me doing that.”

From our conversation, I felt I was already in the Maritimes—the east coast—where people come right up to you and convey their friendly side.

My hosts in Saint John are Nick and Sara.  They hold a weekly program of bhakti-yogaat the Saint John Wellness Centre.  Tonight, I was guest speaker, and all went well including the kirtanand dance at the end.  The group participation was phenomenal.  The space was great—that old-character type of house. Many of the downtown homes were built by fishermen and/or sailors.

There is one thing which we pulled off that is a standard practice for me and anyone who tags along with me when in New Brunswick.  The travelling monks of Canada and I did some fiddlehead foraging at Irving Nature Park.  Fiddleheads are the early stage of the fern plant before it unravels.  This wild vegetable is just delicious and nutritious. They make a good pizza topping, but what we ended up doing was tossing some of these greens into Sara’s kicharipreparation.

We had no regrets at supper time.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Mascouche, Quebec

New Progressive Project

The Montreal Krishna community has been thinking about expansion of membership and facility for some time.  Their persistence, headed by someone of the name, Anubhava, has led to the purchase of a 78-acre farm in Mascouche, off of Hwy 25, just a 20-minute drive from the centre of downtown Montreal.

It has six lodging units, and includes barns, sheds, tractors and equipment, and also, one of the buildings shelters horses.  Plans are to continue renting out horse space, and cultivate the land, which is fertile, for growing veggies, fruits and flowers.  Greenhouses have potential.  There is also potential to develop this eco-friendly area into a village. Housing in the area is not expensive by Canadian standards.  A river, the Mascouche, runs to the edge of it.

Anubhava’s son, Radhanatha, who is one of the people to buy into the project, has his home at one end of the property, just steps from the river.

“You can canoe and kayak on the river,” he said.

Radhanatha also told me that the farm has potential as a petting farm.  Overall, it sounds very attractive, and adds a new dimension to the long-standing community efforts at Pie IX Boulevard.

The project is a 1 million dollar endeavour.  The purchase and direction is a combined work of devotional businessmen from the area.  It was the desire of the Krishna guru, Srila Prabhupada, to expand horizons and look to growing one’s own food, thus becoming productive people who offer a quality of life.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal and Mothers

A good conscientious driver, friend, and devotee, by the name of Harry, drove Karuna and I to Montreal.  It was just a lovely land we went through, with that red spill against the sky, manifest from the east, and beckoning us to move forward.  Arrival time was 10:00 a.m., after the 5 ½ hour ride.

To the ISKCON temple we went, on Pie IX Boulevard.  In the spirit of Mother’s Day, everyone was cheery, and the irresistible urge in us to walk a stretch became our first business there.  As usual, we moved along Prince Arthur Street and then beyond.  The beyond is a grassy and tree-patched area before you get to the train tracks.  Then we practically slid down a steep slope to land on Notre Dame where traffic is serious.

I received a call.  “Can we talk about the summer and the talent-troupe that’s planned?” asked Prem.

“Yes, it’s a conference call right?”

Narasimha from Montreal got on the line with us, and we discussed who the actual talent will be for the month of July, travelling from this town, Montreal, all the way to Calgary, and stopping along the way to present a summer’s “Festival of India” which will include bhajan, magic and a dance/drama.  Some details were finalized.

What was missing?

The need for another woman on the stage.  Yes, another ‘mother’.  Currently, we only have two.  A third makes it better.

Fast forward.

“There are seven mothers in one’s life, according to the Vedas,” I said at talk-time, to the Pie IX ISKCON community.  “Let us always remember and respect the many mothers we have in our life.”

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Monday, 14 May 2018

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Markham, Ontario

Dwarka’s Birthday

When I became a monk back in ’73, the opinion amongst the movement was that your birthday wasn’t important.  It relates to the body, and since you are not that body you don’t need to give it much attention.  A brief mention of your birthday would happen, as this was our mood, then, in the name of renunciation.    

As time passed and our cultural evolution shaped up, we found that ashram residents and community members really do feel loved and appreciated with at least a small birthday cake—without eggs—and when everyone sings, “Hare Krishna to you… Hare Krishna dear so-and-so…” it brings everyone together.

Tonight we went in carloads of well-wishers to the home of Dwarka who turned 60.  She is very saintly and she is well loved by the community.  Her tiny place in Markham was filled to its capacity in honour of this worthy person. With a little discomfort, we managed to all pack in, and then do the honours of highlighting her qualities—a good mother, wife, devotee and human being.  She’s one of those unsung heroes.

We are accustomed to remembering the birth of Krishna or Chaitanya and celebrating them in a grand style, but it is also virtuous to celebrate someone who’s lived through a lot and continues to serve unceasingly.  Your birth, your marriage and your death are significant days in your life.  Perhaps also the day you accept a guru can be an event to be taken seriously with celebration in remembrance.  We want to wish Dwarka the happiest birthday of all.

May the Source be with you!
5 km