Thursday, 28 June 2018

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

Madrid, Spain

Checking Out Miguel

Miguel de Cervantes is the famed author of the fictitious character “Don Quixote” and is memorialized just a few blocks from Hare Krishna Centro.  It was natural to take a stroll there.  Gathering Narottam, a student from Mayapura, India, and Bhakta Jyan, of Guadalajara, to take the lead, browsing about became our way of winding down the day.

The monument is impressive, situated by a pond of water, and just about every tourist who comes to Madrid, takes a walk around while taking a few snap shots. It’s amazing that Don Quixote has become so popular a character.  When I asked my companions, “Who was he?” the straight and simple answer is, “He was a dreamer.”  I know of a few people like that.  I guess his imagination was in the extreme.

Morning and evening engaged me in giving classes, the first was based on the monk, Chaitanya, and his magnanimous ways with prema pumartha maha.  Premais the love that is deeper than any other. It goes beyond the practice of dharma.  If people love the person Don Quixote then they may consider the nature of Krishna and so many avatars.

The second class, at 1:30 p.m., was a component of the Sunday Open House.  The quaint Hare Krishna Centro, just five minutes off San Bernardo, gets packed with people, mostly Spaniards, with the exception of some South Americans settled in the country for better socio-economic opportunities.  Here I spoke (with translation) from Chapter 18 of the Gita.  How glorious is that dialogue between the warrior and the Divine.  “It gives me a thrill,” if not a chill, up the spine, so says Sanjay.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Madrid, Spain

How Does It Feel

At 3:45 a.m., just when the party mode was beginning to subside, a guitarist moved his strings, and with his vocals—outside our window—started to sing, “How does it feel to be on your own, like a rolling stone…”  This Bob Dylan classic threw me back to the sixties, but probably it was also a message that roommate, Yadunandan Swami, and I were to start activating our mission for the day and become rolling stones.

Julan Yatra from Tenerife was also to join us on an early attack on the trail, a branch of the famous Santiago Camino that runs through Madrid.  We convened and the air was good, and people were good (sort of); some were high or a bit tipsy from drinking.

Party goers chanted simply upon seeing the three of us, however, a trio of Friday night enthusiasts—two gals and a guy—took us more seriously.  They looked over our mantra card with serious interest.  We were on the first break, standing, and then sitting under an amber street light.

Incidentally, to follow the Camino’s route, you have to keep your eye on the gold-painted arrow.  It led us to a cemetery and the very precincts of the city.  That was good enough.  Thirteen kilometres accomplished.  We had to return to our temple for a scheduled talk on “Tales from Trails” to be held in a cave-like temple.  By the way, the restaurant here is well visited and increases in attendance in the winter.

May the Source be with you!
13 km

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Alcala de Henares, Spain

Kirtan Where It Helps

Most of my stepping today was in the city above, done during our Hari Nama Sankirtan practice.  Approximately twenty-five of us danced or paced up and down through this trendy downtown, armed with mrdangadrum, kartals(cymbals) and our own good cheer.

It’s funny how people respond to our group.  It ranges from disdain, to indifference, to happiness.  Obviously, we come across as religious, and some store owners don’t see us as a draw to their merchandise.  There are a lot of people, clerks as well as tourists, who just break into a big smile, and that is always reassuring.

It was interesting to see storks flying overhead, and even more-so, landing on municipal towers where their full nesting arrangements have fewer predators at such heights.  There’s always an innate desire to see your species survive and prevail.

While we were chanting the streets under an endless awning, a protection from the sun, a group of protesters were shouting out slogans for justice.  Apparently Spain had one of those instances where a woman was mercilessly and publicly raped, and the guilty group of men have received a less-than-serious sentence.  Of course, people should be penalized to match the offence.

What brings people to do such things?  Where do such ideas come from, ideas that get implanted in the brain?

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Romanacos, Spain

At the Top

I am really fortunate because rains have been in abundance, more than usual. It has left everything very green.  Locals say, “It is usually dry at this time.”

The village of Romanacos is approximately seven kilometres from the farm, Vrajamandala. A kind person, Vishnu Dharma, drove us to the top of the hill, right to the site of the village.  There sits an old church from the 16thcentury. A tiny snake seemed to take refuge in the area.  He shared the road with us—Nir, Julan and Lyla.    The trail is this winding road that is ever so quiet.  It’s hard to believe we are so remote.  Luckily, spring fountains of drinking water are found here and there.  Overall, I find it is a very pleasant place for self-reflection and God-contemplation.

Yadunandan Swami asked that I give classes twice today—once on the story of young prince Dhruva after he met Vishnu, and another on “Whatever you wish to speak about.” For the second one—which was at 6:00 p.m.—I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it.  It was a nice surprise to see how it terminated.  Each person was left with their own chosen, personal sutra(code) which he/she felt was their direct message from our guru, Srila Prabhupada.

“In a nutshell, what is he asking you to do?”

In truth, I came to Spain primarily to meet with Yadunandan Swami, and two Cuban devotees, Janardan of Madrid, the temple president, and Julan Yatra, vice president of Tenerife.  We discussed, at length, strategy for sharing Krishna Consciousness there. Vrajamandala is a great place to meet.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Guadalajara, Spain

A Small Strip of Spain

Alberto, an Italian-born devotee of Krishna, was right there at the Madrid Airport waiting to drive me for a one-hour stretch to the peaceful Spanish countryside at the retreat farm of Vrajamandala.  Residents number thirty.  There are six children of school age, five cows, one ox and a recently born, five-day-old bull, Baladeva.

The river, Tajuña, runs through the 350 acre property.  It was irresistible to walk from the town of Guadalajara (not the big city) of modest size, to the farm.  Julan Yatra from Tenerife came; so did Madhava from Barcelona, as well as Bhakta Nir from Israel.  We explored and took backways for a 6+ km walk.  The ‘secret passage’, however, turned out to be confusing, so we surrendered to the main road.

There are great walls left over from the Arab period, before the Crusades, so they are ancient.  My companions told me of how, before Christianity established itself, animals such as the bull were sacred to inhabitants.  I don’t know how that fits into the controversial bullfights of Spain. In fact, Madhava pointed out one estate along the road where bulls are trained for the fighting entertainment. Madhava added, “Most of the Spanish are opposed.”  He also mentioned that the town, Guadalajara, is one of those places where they release bulls in the town, and all citizens take refuge of their buildings.

Yadunandana Swami, who is Spanish, is an absolute gentleman, and arranged for me to give a talk about the ‘walk’ that everyone should give attention to.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

The Invasion

It is one of those days where I cannot sulk, but be a trifle sad about not walking.  The air travel restricts the possibility.  I flew in from Calgary this morning.  By 3:15 a.m., I was off to the airport for a flight to Madrid to meet up with the Cuban connection, that is those who were or are affiliated with our mission there.

In the moments of waiting for Air Canada Flight 863 to call for passengers to get ready for boarding, I contemplated those appalling photos I had viewed from a recent National Geographic magazine covering the story of plastic.  I was shocked by the statistics and images of plastics that are currently challenging our very existence.  Our planet is becoming more of a dumping ground than I could have imagined.

One particular picture showed a sea horse in the ocean’s depth who had coiled around and was carrying a plastic Q-tip that he had found.  I was looking at the image while sitting most uneasily in the waiting room of the dental clinic.

You can see the accumulation of the shiny materials called plastic in the form of bags and bottles after the snow’s thaw.  Plastic bags fly in the air and cling onto trees. Bottles clog drains and pipes and drainage ditches.  In the clinic, I pointed out the sea horse photo to the receptionist who said, “Oh and now China is producing noodles out of plastic.”

You can go on.  We certainly must be more sensitive about our place of residence, Earth, which is becoming highly overrun by the plastic monster invasion.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Calgary. Alberta

Good Day in Cal

Gaurachandra and Vani Priya are my usual co-walkers in the North East of Calgary.  With much rainfall in recent days, the mosquitoes can form clouds.  Well, they did that for us while we were in our stride. The presence of magpies was also so evident.  You wonder if while in flight they couldn’t just keep their beaks open and swallow a few mosquitoes in the process?

Nanda Gopal had invited me over for brunch.  “It will just be some steamed veggies,” was the promise. It was simply a well-meaning white lie. His two boys are a handful of energy—Shyama and Keshav.

Rakesh had also invited me, along with my hosts Radha Madhava, Svasti and the girls, for lunch. We had to push that forward in order to separate the meals.  This was feast #2.  I really am grateful to Rakesh for giving my inflamed knees a chance.  The massage was phenomenal.

While the meals of today were certainly upstage items, I have to hand it to Anuttama for organizing a splendid “Kirtan Lounge” program in downtown Calgary.  Forty local folks showed up, mostly singles is what I guessed.  I could gather that my ‘talking of walking (and not eating) ventures’ were as of much interest as was the spiritual element that I live by. The vegan meal was enjoyed like anything.  But I passed. Questions lingered on, before and after consumption time.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Edmonton / Calgary

Mangos and Dads

It’s Father’s Day, and so the natural topic to speak about, in two locations, Edmonton and Calgary, which are a mere three hours drive apart, was obvious—fathers!

At the Calgary venue, Radha Madhava’s Cultural Centre, there was a unique display of real mangos on the altar to celebrate a Mango Festival, something Gujaratis are crazy about. However, it was the younger generation—kids—who put more emphasis on fathers, the traditional seed-givers, protectors and providers.

It was evident in the T shirts worn. “Dads Rock!” and “Dad is Rad! were some of the messages.

Praise be to that member of the family who is often overlooked. Lest we forget the Supreme Father, Lord Sri Krishna, who is also the Supreme Mother—as per the Gita.

In Calgary, the priest Dwarkadish performed a homa, a fire ceremony, for four initiates.  The candidates were two males and two females. From Red Deer, a city smack in between Edmonton and Calgary came Fijian born, Sanjay (now Sugosh), his wife, Sileshni (now Subhadra) and their twenty-three-year-old son, Shiven (now Satyavrata), along with a local woman, a third generation Hare Krishna by the name of Tulasi Priya who is now Tulasi Puja.

Congratulations to those forward-thinking and forward-doing individuals.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Edmonton, Alberta


I was on the Whitemud Trail with Bala and Rati when I received a call from Rajasuya in Brampton.  “We are being eaten alive by mosquitos,” I told him.

Rajasuya, who used to live in Texas said, “You should see them in Texas.  They are like elephants in size.” 

I wanted to say to Rajasuya that his remark made me feel better.  In some ways it did, but they continued to be voracious with their appetite.  Bala was getting the worst of it.

“Bala, your blood is to their liking.  Do you eat a lot of sweets—sugar, perhaps?”

It was somewhat of a confession time for him.

Regarding food, Connor, who’s eighteen, had just a little too much prasadamwhen we lunched back at the Krishna temple. Connor has really impressed me with his devotion.  It takes him two hours to get there and two hours to get back home.  That’s devotion!  He is becoming quite devotional—and renounced.  On my second walking installment for the day, Connor and Jaga Jivan joined me as we made our way toward the Yoga studio for a “Tales from Trails” presentation.  It was while on our journey that Connor renounced his meal.  I could see something might be coming on with his pale look.

It was an unpleasant experience; his donation to the sidewalk.  He quickly recovered.

Finally, we made it to the studio and it was just wonderful—the attendance, the mood, the questions.  I want to thank Jaga Jivan for arranging the program as well as Candice for having us use the facility, “Spirit Path” on 124thStreet.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Edmonton, Alberta

Outing in Edmonton

For years I’ve been conducting satsangs or home programs which feature kirtan, talks and Prasadand often walking to the place of action.  Ananda is an excellent tabla player who accompanied me on 34thStreet in Edmonton.  The sky was a grey-blue, the hue that let us know it’s not going to stay.  A partial rainbow, meaning not fully-arched to our vision, made an appearance in that sky.

Generally these satsangs occur in the evening and are culminated with a meal.  However, upon arriving from our walk at the home of Yogendra, and settling down, I grumbled to our host about late-night eating not being good for you.  Yogendra concurred and so in the most jolly way we ate and chatted.  Then the kirtanwas begun by expert singer Nitai, followed by my talk on the personality, Akrura.  He was a personality not liked by the residents of Vrindavan—Krishna’s village—for taking Krishna away to the city.

I also did a reading ofThe Gopis Attracted by the Flute of Krishna.  The children who came with their moms and dads assembled in front of me. Unbelievably, they were most attentive.

The food was great and we ended with kombucha.  Yogendra insisted everyone dance during the kirtanso we all were inspired in a mix of Chaitanya spirit and “Grease.”  It was most enjoyable, thanks to the Edmonton team.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Brampton, Ontario

Red Wings

After a dental visit, Nanda took me to a park, Chinguacousy, and I sat to write  by the pond. To the surprise of both of us, this red-winged black bird came darting at us.  “Oh Krishna!”  It must have been its nesting area, but in our minds this was our resting area, or at least relaxing zone before the Bramalea Mall opened.

But it got more serious.  Our feathered friend came right at our heads, flapping its wings.  No beak penetration occurred, like in the scenes from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Nanda got defensive and picked up a convenient branch, fallen from the trees of yesterday’s storm.  It was somewhat effective.  The bird was persistent, however, and we were humbled by his territorialism.

A terrorist?  I wouldn’t demonize the fellow that much.  It was just a case of taking care of dharma—duty—in the form of protection.

I do like the sound of this red-winged creature.  The shrill sound throws me back to childhood.  In southwestern Ontario there are lowlands, former swamps, the space they like the most.

God made every creature in a certain way; most of them get cranky like this guy.  I thank him for reminding me of Garuda, a super hero in the eagle category.

After the episode of attack, Nanda and I took care of phone business and then enjoyed the succulent parathas he had made.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

The Force and the Source

Have you ever looked out the window to see, before your very eyes, a storm, not brewing, but suddenly hammer its way through?  I did.  It was on this very day.  I would say there was no physical warning.  It just came, turbulently.

I was in the chair looking at the trees from our second storey. Suddenly those trees swayed in such a way that I didn’t know they could bend like that.

Of course, some didn’t bend.  Some older growth just snapped and crashed.  The winds with rain moved easterly, and it was severe for only about seven minutes.  The downpour of rain then shifted vertically.

The sirens resounded throughout the city.  I went for an aftermath walk.  Sure, enough damage was done.  Power lines were down in the Yorkville area.  Cars were crushed under massive tree branches.  Someone I spoke to on a stroll mentioned that the popular Eaton’s Shopping Centre downtown had major leakage coming from its high ceiling. With all this you can say it could have been worse.

“Nature is like the mind—turbulent,” I said to two guests in Govinda’s.  They concurred that they were seeing themselves in the condition of the weather.

During my nighttime stroll, I took the opportunity to sit in a café chair by a parkette.  I was having a break from the return of the wind.  Indeed my dhoti experienced a good tossing in the air.  I had to tame it, holding it down at times.  I placed my japa beads on the table and was content to have them always near me.  After all, it is the Kali Yuga.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Brampton, Ontario


Three of us, Keshav, Vijay and I, went for some fund-raising in Brampton.  There is a need to receive kindness from donors for the up-and-coming Chariot Fest in Toronto.  The target for collection is $20,000 (Canadian).  People were reciprocating.  One dentist and one pundit from a Hindu temple gave generously.

We lunched at Keshava’s, and since Vijay, the driver, wished to nap before the return journey home, I decided to get a head start. Eastbound I went on Wanless Drive which eventually changes name to Conservation Drive.

While trekking under a hot sun, a man I couldn’t recognize passed by me in his car and made a U turn.  He honked his horn which drew my attention.

“I’ll drive you.  Come on in.” He offered his pranams.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said in certain terms. “Someone—Vijay—is napping at the Asian Food Centre.  He’ll pick me up.”

Sorry at missing the opportunity, the gentleman went about his way. A second driver pulled over and didn’t offer a ride but delivered a classic question that I often receive, “You don’t remember me?”

“Vaguely, I’m sorry.”

“I’m Balen.  I laid down a floor for you in your temple.”

“Yes, it’s coming back to me,” I said in a genuine moment of recollection.  “That was in the mid-eighties.”  I thanked him and let him know we are ready to lay down tiles again for a different floor. He moved on and I was thrown into nostalgia.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Small Band of Monks

My physical body was in T.O., T-Dot, now called The Six—according to Drake—but really, I took a mental-flying carpet all over the nation; nay—the continent; nay—the globe.  By phone and e-mail, I moved about looking at how places can be helped, in a social sense.

There is a lot of pain in the world.  Higher, not lower, consciousness can alter that in an incremental way.  It’s amazing what a circle of monks can do.

I sat down with our small team of young monks in Canada—Prana, Marshall, Samuel and now also Karuna—planning out the month of June. For starters, the boys are planning to drive to Saskatoon, a length of some distance.  The mission is to stir up the town a little for three weeks, and reap a harvest of new students.  A nice Gujarati family, comprised of Kashyapa and Panchami, as well as son and daughter, had initiated a weekly program for awareness of the Divine.  This has been running for eight years.

Sadly, they are to leave, since work contracts have expired and finance isn’t looking that great in the province of Saskatchewan.  It is not booming at the moment.  The redeeming aspect of the place is its university; it’s pretty downtown with a big beautiful river, the Northern Saskatchewan, running through it, and there are lots of friendly people.

I was envying the group of monks who were embarking at noon today for the long journey through a scenic Central Canada route.  Too bad they’re not walking.  It’s a 3,000 kilometre trip and they’ll miss the hidden treasures of Lake Superior’s north shore.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Moundsville, West Virginia

Success Between Him and Her

I applaud any couple who can do the job of staying together. Although I am an unwavering renunciate, I am a blesser of families.  I remain a firm believer in true-hearted couple-ism as much as I hold onto my saffron dhoti(robe).

Vraja Kishor is a happy householder—though not without disagreement with wife, Nitai.  They just know, or are constantly learning to know the ropes behind living it out on the foundation of compromise.  Their five year old, Arjuna, is a major factor who glues the relationship together.

Vraja looks after me when I come to visit their community in ‘them there hills’ of West Virginia.  Happily, they celebrated their 10thanniversary today.  I and others, I’m sure, bless them that those ten years will be multiplied by five or six decades.  That would be something worthy of having an eggless, processed-sugar-free cake.

A particular ingredient behind the success of a marriage is the spiritually-centric nature of it.  Yes, the dharmaside of it teaches compromise and communication.  Anything can come to tempt you, to displace you, and when your guard is down, emotions are up and good rationale is ebbed low, then, you can register as a disaster.

Disaster!  There are just too many of them today.  We don’t need any more to add to the list.

Vraja took me to the Pittsburgh Airport where they only play good classical instrumental music, the type of vibration which keeps couples as one.

Back home in Toronto, I sit in a room with brahmacharis—monks—who respect married men and women.  They are content to be as they are, and if any of them choose to marry, we will encourage the loyalty between them and their spouse.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, 11 June 2018

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Moundsville, West Virginia 

More Medicine

The concluding day for the Bhaktivedanta Medical Association Retreat included grainless meals to honour the bi-weekly Ekadashi.  (That was #1.)

2)   Improving japachanting
3)   Financial Planning for seniors (I led this discussion)
4)   Asanas/ postures and stretches
5)   Physical / mental foundation ofMahamantrayoga
6)   How to grow your own food
7)   Medical updates
8)   Spiritual Jeopardy
9)   Spiritual journaling
10)How well do you know your spouse (a workshop)
11)Breathing Exercises
12)Raising Conscious Children
13)(Finally) A Swan Boat Festival with Kirtan

In addition to the above, we also made a visit to the first old barn where the community began in ’68.  It is quite the vintage home.  Inside we sat, discussed and explored the contributions that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, gave to the world.  Here is what the group came up with:

Srila Prabhupada was the one…

1)   To introduce kirtan to the world
2)   Who mass-propagated Vedic philosophy
3)   Who fought war on drugs throughbhakti
4)   Who mass-propagated vegetarianism
5)   Who encouraged the back-to-land lifestyle
6)   Who mass-propagated reincarnation
7)   Who introduced to the West, ancient rites from the East
8)   To promote peace through mantratherapy.

May the Source be with you!

5 km