Sunday, 23 September 2018

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Time Out for Sound

Dwarkanath is twenty-nine, and our youngest monk at the moment who is living in the ashram.  He is a very talented young man who loves to play the sarod and sitar for Krishna.  I asked him if his schedule allowed for some chanting in the park.  This week has been designated as Holy Name Week, world-wide, and so I thought to carve out at least one hour for some chanting.  We both made ourselves available at 1:00 p.m.  We walked to Ramsden Park, sat on the grass, and started to chant right away.

First, Dwarkanath had to warm up with his instrument.  That sound was enough to warm up hearts, as well.  Park strollers couldn’t help but react to hearing something so celestial.  The smiles that were shaped, and even someone’s throw of a kiss were indications of appreciation.  The setting was so perfect.  I’ve never witnessed a summer more conducive for weather, with its fair share of sun, rain and moon.  Can’t complain about that.

Now Wednesday evenings are the time for kirtan in the temple.  Krishna followers show up at 7:00 p.m for a two-hour session on chanting.  It has been a successful program for some years now, giving attention to shabdha-brahman, sacred sound.  Some really good chanting takes place, and it spiritualizes the atmosphere and touches the heart.  It is no doubt transformational.

Isn’t there the need?  Isn’t there a call from afar—from Chaitanya—that beckons us to start with a make-over of the heart?

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Inspirational Monk

It was just a blessing, last week, having the company of some great souls, one of whom is Ontario-born and became a monk, Bhakti Raghava Swami.  He hails from the north-Hearst / Timmins area and is from a Catholic, French-Canadian background.  He is the real thing in terms of exercising simplicity and detachment from the world; appropriate qualities for a sanyasi(monk).  He is an inspiration.  One time in the ’70s, Bhakti Raghava Swami lost his leg when a dacoit (an armed thief) released a home-made bomb aimed at the swami.  Since then, he uses crutches and operates on one leg.  I did joke with him—and he took it well, I think—that he’s the Terry Fox of the Hare Krishnas.  

It was good to see him in the Ukraine last week.  I might also mention that his specific service is the development of sustainable communities.

Now, on this day, I walked up along Bloor Street.  Being Tuesday evening, garbage and trash were put out by all the shop owners for pick-up.  I was thinking about the environment and reflected on the very powerful purport we discussed in the morning.  Here is a portion of it.

From Srimad Bhagavatam10.46.40:

“We desire to associate with various qualities of material nature, and thus we must accept the consequences.  The Lord provides the field of material nature, in which we exercise our free will. Foolish non-devotees not only attempt to cheat the Lord by trying to exploit His nature, but when they suffer the reaction, they blame God for their own misdeeds.  This is the shameless position of those who are envious of God.”

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Scarborough / Toronto

Two Sides

I was impressed with the Vedic Roots Montessori School on Tuxedo Court.  This pre-school facility began four years ago and has enjoyed a growth since its humble beginnings.  What a terrific staff.  The school also provides Ayurvedicmeals cooked on the spot.  They are all heroes—the initiators in particular are Radha-Mohan and Shyama Mohini, with the principle (very professional) someone by the name of Gita. I'm sure our guru, Srila Prabhupada, is very pleased with this high standard quality of education from those persons who have a positive influence on human civilization.

Yes, education and culture are such an important element in society.  When I made my japawalk along Yonge, which is transforming every day due to construction, the not-so-refined were out south of Bloor.  I had some exchanges later in the evening.

To a young couple who looked fairly sober I said, “Good morning!”  They laughed because it was morning—2:00 a.m.

To a homeless person who said, “I need a hot dog.”  I replied. “I don’t have any.”

To a second homeless person who sat next to me at Dundas Square to take a break and asked me, “Buddhist?”  I replied, “It’s Hare Krishna.”

“Oh yeah, Hare Krishna!  My next birth will give me another chance.”

“Yes, it will,” I assured him, as he extend his hand for a shake.

The final person to say something looked okay.  His remark was, “The devil is coming!”

My response was, “He’s already here!” implying that the age of darkness (Kali) has descended.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

Odessa / Vienna / Toronto

Leaving the Ukraine

Odessa doesn’t have a huge airport.  The person at customs was a bit of a stickler.  My tube of toothpaste was too large, although little paste was left. That had to go in the trash.  My bar of soap was too used.  “New, new, must be new!”  He was about to trash that and its container when three female devotees just ahead of the queue convinced him that there’s no harm.  Finally, my nifty stainless steel container for my tilakwas about to be thrown in the can when the girls saved the day.  What to do? Customs can go overboard.  They can get rough and tough, more than there needs to be.

Flying today was good.  The day was long—an extra eight hours—not terribly rough.  I reflected on the good week in the Ukraine.  There was a harshness and gentleness simultaneously.  In the Kirtan Standard Seminar which I conducted, we encouraged a gentleness.  At one point I asked volunteer women, then men to make a pose that would capture the grace and gentleness of the famous monk, Sri Chaitanya, and His associates. As chanters in suspension, they held poses that would convey this quality.  Please view the images.

Finally I arrived home to participate in the program “Radhastami,” the birthday of Sri Radha, Krishna’s consort.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, 17 September 2018

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Kobleve, Ukraine

Last Day in the Ukraine

Today is the one year anniversary of my finishing the U.S. walk in San Francisco. We touched that Pacific Ocean and sprinkled water on our head as a blessing.  From the Atlantic to the Pacific, an adventure was completed.  I don’t regret it.

Now tonight, closing ceremonies took place at the resort in the Ukraine to denote an appreciation of a great party.  I always praise our guru, Srila Prabhupada, for providing a redefinition of what a party is.  No booze, no drugs, no sex, no bad music.  It’s revolutionary.

Today we also marked the last installment of my “Kirtan Standards Seminar.”  The group who came to listen was very regulated, numbering at about one hundred each day.  They were interested in continuity.  Each night the main pandal(tent) was filled with hundreds of enthusiastic bhakti-yogisblissed on kirtan.

Also today, I was in the hot seat—the vyasasan, or the speaker’s chair.  Yes, I was the class-giver, speaking from the book Bhagavatam4.22.22, on the topic of increasing attachment to the Supreme. Sanat Kumar suggests three things: 1) be attentive to devotional rules, 2) engage in honouring the deity and 3) hear, and chant about the glories of the Supreme.

The Bhakti-Sangamais coming to a close, and I will miss its sweetness and so many brothers and sisters who are about to depart for their respective areas.  My peers have been a pleasure to be with, although I admit to some fear spasms when I sat before the final group of such great proportion.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Kobleve, Ukraine

Sing Dance Sweat

It has been almost one year since I became a senior citizen.  At age 65, I don’t always feel it, but sometimes yes.  With the energy output of leading kirtanand dance moves, I feel like a live wire at times.

The weather has been mostly damp and a little on the cool side and stiffness of muscles can be a bit of a reality when waking in the morning.  The way to address this issue is to engage in some hot bhaktiyoga. Sing, dance, sweat, could be the best formula or prescription.  If I had begun stiff, I no longer felt it after a few sways, spins, whirls or twirls.

If you look up the word ‘dance’ you’ll come up with something like, “A series of steps and movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music.”  The amazing therapy which comes thereafter is something remarkable in terms of achievement.

What I also find healing about this festival, the Bhakti Sangamin its 20thyear, is the location of our retreat, which clearly covers an area of a one kilometre walk.  You do that several times a day and the number gradually adds up.

I was going at a good clip on one of those short walks, avoiding puddles, just today, and I caught up with one monk senior to myself.  Jayadvaita Swami is one of those veterans of bhakti.  In age and wisdom, he exceeds me, so for a walking speed, I had to compromise and slow down.  That’s okay, just a few moments of the monk’s company and it’s worth it.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Kobleve, Ukraine

Slimy Guys

“There were so many jellyfish in the Black Sea, you could hardly see the water,” I told my swimming companions.  Of course, that’s a slight exaggeration, but those spineless creatures were certainly in abundance.  One of them brushed my thigh.  He was a fair-sized one, hard to maneuver.  They contract and expand.  Once washed up on the beach, they appear like transparent plastic bags.  They are more or less pronounced dead.  I recall seeing one on the beach, at age five, when my Mom took me to Holland.  There on the sand lay one of Krishna’s interesting entities from the sea.  I remember people saying in Dutch to be careful, that they can give you a form of paralysis for some time.

I was reminded of an instance in Mayapura, India, when a professional Russian actor came to help us with our drama workshop.  He suggested as an exercise to imagine ourselves being in a large bowl of jello.  We were to move in that jello and eventually wiggle our way out.  It was interesting.

Dipping into the Black Sea was an experience from another angle apart from the slimy creatures.  The Black Sea is actually brown.  That colour doesn’t bother me necessarily.  The temperature of the sea was fine and the liquid did loosen my limbs somewhat.

In fact, I'm doing a bit more dancing than usual, which invokes a good sweat.  As my dear god brother, Niranjan Swami, expressed to me this afternoon, that as you progress in years, you do move less fluidly.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Kobleve, Ukraine

Some Details

Much rain came.  We could just as well have paddled to thepandal
Pandalmeans tent.  It’s huge and can accommodate thousands.  The festival, called Bhakti Sangama, draws leaders from all parts of the globe.  By leaders, I refer to Hare Krishna practitioners. The balance of attendees are all bhakti-yogis.

Although rain had come overnight, the day was clear and the sun burst through.  I was tempted to view the Black Sea, so my brahmacharimonk assistant, Arjuna Krishna, led me there at sunset—the only opportunity.  We’ve been busy.

The seminar went on again and again with a triumphant turn-out—maybe one hundred. The seminar is designed to establish standards and good regulations on kirtanperformance.  Other than the presentation, I gave on this topic, I was on the schedule for two chanting sessions.  Leading the chants in the main pandaland a smaller one—but still big—was an honour.  Oh, how everyone danced!  I'm sure someone filmed it.

It was rather fun teaming up with Ajamila again, with he on the harmonium and I singing, then we switched to him singing while I backed that up with dancing in the crowds.  The two of us are like cheer-leaders.

Actually, quite a few Canadian bhaktascame, seasoned devotees like Samir from Montreal and Guru Prasad from Ottawa, as well as some women from Toronto.  Even Bhakti Raghava Swami, who has a leg missing, showed up.  He’s like our Terry Fox—the runner who managed to trek Canada to the middle point.  Heroes!

May the Source be with you!
3 km.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Kobleve, Ukraine

Kirtan Is Life

Our retreat is located on the north shore of the Black Sea at the Vita Park Hotel, in a series of modern-looking units.  Outside my one window at #34, I have a pond with a fountain to look at. The door entrance opens to other units occupied by other devotee world travellers.

I’m giving seminars on Kirtan Standards.  Today was Day #1.  Attendees were approximately 120.  Our hall was full.  Considering there are maybe 5-6,000 registered, it is a relatively small number to show up for the talk, but people have many options.  I’m not complaining.  Incidentally, I dedicated my presentation to the victims of 9/11 in New York, the attack on the twin towers, in the year 2001. The feedback of that Day #1 went well.

I’m also inclined to announce the loss of another brother (spiritual brother). Gunagrahi Goswami passed away from cancer last weekend in Vrndavana, India.  I looked up to him as a big brother, for it was when I joined in the spring of ’73 that he was well into administration at our Buffalo, New York centre. Always kind to others, he was an inspiration.  I know he’s doing better now in another abode.  For the last two years when I came to visit him he had a big kirtanat his dwelling every night.  So he did it the right way.  It was of no surprise that he was dying and would leave us.  He left prepared.  He invited me to Buenos Aires some years ago.  My annual visits to Argentina are because of him.  

And so I say to him, “Adios amigo!”  

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Monday, September 10th, 2018

Vienna / Odessa

Past to the Future

Three days ago Rajasuya from Brampton, Canada, drove me to an Iroquoian village to meet other devotees so that we could step back in time.  It really was a beautiful spot.  I could have stayed in the native longhouses forever and been inspired.

Today, after landing in Odessa, Ukraine, I was telling a young brahmacharimonk, Arjuna Krishna, about native life in Canada—the little I know.  He was fascinated by the lifestyles of then.  I gave him further history by way of mouth on the topic of the natives, the Jesuits, British, Americans, the exiles of the Indigenous Peoples, the Mormons and the slaves.  His fascination continued.

I had teamed up with Jayadvaita Swami, my senior God Brother—Go Bro—and we were able to chat it up all the way from Vienna to Odessa.  “Where is the world going?  How can we, in bhakti, make it better?”  Those kinds of topics.  I respect him so much.

We arrived at Vita Park Hotel, an actual resort village of great cabins.  (It put me back into the Iroquoian village, in a way.) Here I also met Lokanatha and Devamrta Swamis.  Lokanatha is the minister for padayatra, fest on foot, and will be bringing to the printer a book on Padayatrasoon.  Thousands of pilgrims have joined his journeys on foot throughout India and abroad.

Promoting the walking culture and simplification of lifestyle, are two big meditations and implementations of my life for a long time now.  Also, reading of Vedic culture—as in the books of Prabhupada—have helped me to reflect on a more glorious past.  It is not possible to step into a wholesome future without touching an experienced past.

May the Source be with you
0 km (flying & driving)

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Brampton, Ontario

Common Goal

It has been a while since I’ve come to the ISKCON Centre in this fast-growing city. To some proportion, the attendance at the centre is also enjoying a growth.

I chose to speak from verse 10.9 of the Bhagavad-gitabecause it explores the notion of common unity.  The words that shape the verse are all positive, about engagement, being inclusive and occupied in the common objective—the Supreme. This verse is, in fact, sometimes referred to as one of the nutshell phrases of the entire Gita.

“I know I’ve spoken from this shlokabefore and delivered an explanation, but I’ll do so again and, as is natural, from a slightly different angle,” I said.  We highlighted the importance of collaboration and implementing unity and diversity.  This is a topic our guru, Srila Prabhupada, wanted us to discuss and implement.

A nice group!

A kind Rasaraj drove me to the airport in Toronto for a departure to Vienna, and then Odessa, for a retreat and seminars, but first we slipped in a few minutes with Savyasacin (Savy for short).  He and family live at the edge of Brampton.  His name stands for ‘expert archer,’ a name of Krishna’s warrior friend, Arjuna.

In that regard we must all aim properly toward our goal—to become clean within and without—and then shoot straight, toward the target, the lotus feet of Krishna. My God, we all could use an ounce of humility if not more.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Campbellville, Ontario

Going Back in Time

Temperatures dropped to about 12°C, but that was okay for three families as we took to morning trekking around a unique body of water called Crawford Lake.  It is a very deep lake at 22 metres, cone-shaped at the bottom, with no oxygen at its base.  Corn pollen was found down there indicating the civilization of the Wendat (Hurons) lived nearby hundreds of years ago.  You have to check out the trees.

There is also a reconstructed village of longhouses where you can go inside and hear an interpreter describe and display the wares of the days gone by.  Very inspiring are the tools, footwear and cooking facilities of that more simple time ~1400 CE.  Moose, deer and beaver pelts line the ledges—their beds.

“I think we all need to get closer to the lifestyle of these indigenous people,” I mentioned to the group, who had all started growing plentiful gardens this spring, for the first time, in their suburban backyards.  The interpreter let us know that the diet of these native folks was mostly vegetarian.  Corn, beans and squash are known as The Three Sisters, something the First Nations of this area thrived on.

The evening exposed me to a more sophisticated setting, a mansion north of Toronto, where a large scale Janmasthami—Krishna’s birth celebration—was held.  Hundreds of people were accommodated.  I like these programs, lots of fun, only the feasting runs too late as in most of these types of events.  I am grateful to be part of community programs where the Supreme is the focal point.  Thanks to the dedicated Batra family.

It was a good day and it lasted a long time.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Open to People

Since last night, when I walked one block twice in Sussex, I encountered some fun exchanges.  On that quiet main street of the town, a young woman from a carload of passengers stuck out her head to shout out a remark.

“I like the dress,” she said of my robes.

“They’re robes.  I’m a monk.”

“Oh, that’s what they are.  I’m not that educated.  In fact, I’m ignorant.”  I sensed some sarcasm.

“Do get educated!” I encouraged her.

In the downtown of Fredericton, the brahmacharis and I met the school librarian. With coffee in hand she crossed the street with us, and we began a conversation around the weather.

“Best month of the year,” I declared. “Best for walking.” I was referring to September.

“Oh yes, it really is.”

“And best for reading?” I asked.


When the Brahmacharis and I reached the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, I pulled out my cell for a photo.  A polite young guy behind me, on his way to do landscaping, with skate-board in arm, decided to wait until I clicked.  I clicked. He had questions.

“I’ve heard about Krishna… I’ll be going on a retreat where they honour a vow of silence.”

I encouraged the calm man who introduced himself by the name, Devlon.  I expressed that in our order we sing, drum and talk about dharma.  We made a friend, and the brahmacharis will keep in touch with him.

My stay in New Brunswick wrapped up with a swim in Lake Killarney.  Refreshing!

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Sussex, New Brunswick

Success in Sussex

It’s a cute little town of 4,000 and we’re told by the people who came for our bhaktitalk that tomorrow a balloon fest begins. We’re speaking about helium balloons that take passengers in the air.  For a $200 charge you go up to heights where you’ve never been before.

“What do you see?” I asked one of the attendees at a downtown dance/work-out place.

“Great scenery—the hills, trees, rivers and creeks.”  All this from a bird’s eye view.  Sounds good.

In my talk, I tried to stay on the topic which was Achieving Happiness Through Family and Community; so from the perspective of a spiritual angle it is possible.  Depending upon full mundane arrangements is fallible.  “Keep a spiritual focus because the physical facility will ultimately fail you.”

Mary, the coordinator of the place, was someone we worked with last May.  This time she was with her three kids and fantastic husband, from Iran.  Jason and Nicole came from Shediac where there is this world-class ocean beach. Nakula (Nick) and Sarah came from St. John.  Some local people from Sussex also came to hear, sing and dance—all community stuff and feeling good vibrations.

The drive back seemed lengthy—an hour and a half.  It’s Canada.  Distances are a reality.

Today I could not boast any stretch of walking, only two times around the block in the town of Sussex.  It was something at least.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Good Finds

What is really special about this time of year, almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere, is the lucky harvest.  For instance, Marshall and I took one of those random trails in the area and we came upon the juiciest apple tree imaginable.  From what we could see, this special tree of red, tart-and-sweet apples is overlooked by all cyclists, walkers and runners.  However, not for us.  No way! To ‘overlook’ was not an issue.  For us it was ‘look over’ and then choose.  

Remarkable was the fact that each apple we sampled, for a taste, was different from the other, although extracted from the same tree.  That is not something you get when you purchase a bag of apples in the grocery store.  Even the organics are disappointing.  I'm sure you’ve had the experience.  We felt very blessed on our walk today because of the great apples.

Other than this brief walk, I stayed indoors all day working on the book, The Walking Monk.  The evening was different.  Marshall, Samuel and I drove to the Breathing Space Yoga Studio with host Kelly.  Twenty or so came.  We were like a family, gathered together to tell of travel tales, chant, dance and eat prasadam.  A fantastic time.  Delicious, like finding the apple tree.

We are up for more exploration with mantrasand trails.  By the way, most trails around here are lined with hundreds of chokecherry bushes. Prepare them the right way and they are suitable to offer to the Lord.  Jahnavi from Regina knows how to prepare them.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Fredericton / Saint John

Along the River Shores

The four of us took to a trail again.  Dhruva, Marshall, Samuel and I preferred the footpath along the Saint John River, both the north and south sides, and crossing two bridges.  We met the sun, the slight wind and people.

We bumped into Amy with surprise.  She came to one of our talks in May at St. Thomas University.  With two small-breed dogs to lead her, or to be led by her, one of them tugged at my dhoti(lower robe).  These two fidos seemed somewhat intimidated by four towering monks.

On the south side we saw a tanned man coming.  Oh!  From India? 

No, Nepal! “My name is Narada.”  

Newly arrived in Fredericton with his family, he is qualified as a professional but says he’s going to take a shot at culinary work, as a chef.  I hope it’s vegetarian.

On the north side, on a relatively new trail, we offered intros to two native men—probably Micmac Nation fellows.  They were curious about our monk-wear.  One of them asked, “Where are you from?”

“The moon,” I said.  It got them laughing.

An elderly woman came along,  pushing an infant in a buggy.


Sarcastically she said, “What do you think?  No way.  I raised fourteen of my own.”

We also met another man, elderly, walking.  He was definitely a Jesus boy.  He let us know.

After our trek we remembered our guru, Prabhupada.  With special prayers of thanks we expressed gratitude on his Vyasa Puja/birthday.

Late afternoon saw us in Saint John for a “Nine Devotions Workshop.”

Thanks Wade.

May the Source be with you!
7 km