Tuesday 30 October 2018

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Running Krishna

Walking these last few days involves mainly pacing back and forth at a decent speed. Since coming back from steamy hot India, I’ve found the damp coolness of late October somewhat intimidating, but I’ll get over it.  Locking oneself into a cabin for a period seems sometimes necessary as long as you can keep active.  Nowadays most folks who care for an upkeep of the body use their treadmill indoors. Outdoor stuff is no doubt superior.

With the indoor mode, I was fortunate to participate in a seminar as a listener. Then, to our congregation, I delivered a message about Krishna, the Butter Thief, and also Krishna, The Runner. When He was a mere toddler, He ran from His mother, who was in pursuit, to protect Himself from her threatening stick. Her intent was not to use it physically but to help keep Him in line.

We know that Krishna is reputed for His outstanding flute-playing, His frivolity, His childhood antics and so on.  We rarely hear of His walking or fleeing, but He definitely does those things.  He’s a jack-of-all-trades and a master of them all. This is the actual meaning of the word Bhagavan.

It is important to reflect on the positive traits of an individual, and Krishna, to His followers, means everything to them.  His movement and even His words are to be listened to for the sake of spiritual progress.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Woodbridge, Ontario

Longer Live Fall

Jessica held a great program at her home where her dad, Sam, and mom, Anna, cooked pasta and pesto, and everything Italian.  They pleased everyone’s palate and delivered their jovial hospitality. They arranged for various singers to come and lead kirtan.  With their place packed with people, it made for a cozy autumn night.  However, upon leaving their Woodbridge home, we witnessed the most moist snow ever. Personally, I would like to view fall colours just a little longer.  “My Lord, do as you like, but if I had the choice I would side for a lingering colour of fall.”

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west.
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest,
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd by that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

From, The Picador Book of House Poems.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

The Swami in Montreal

I love reading about our guru in the early days of the mission.  Author, Mukunda Goswami, tells of the time in Montreal on an August day in 1968:

“The swami was staying in an apartment building a few blocks from the temple. That afternoon, I decided to walk past the building; I knew the swami would want to see us eventually, so I thought at least one of us should know where it was. It was a hot, claustrophobic afternoon in Montreal, suffocating and without a breath of wind. I was tired and slightly headachy from the flight. Usually I loved the heat, but today it wasn’t helping my fatigued condition. As I trudged down the street, I saw a knot of people outside a building, and as I got closer, I saw they were devotees. Well, that had to be the swami’s building, I thought, and turned to walk back to the temple. I looked back at the group and, on second thought, decided to go and see what they were doing loitering around on the sidewalk. 

There were four devotees, I saw as I approached, and in the center sat the swami perched on a chair on the sidewalk, soaking in the sunlight. I looked up at the building: no verandas, and this facade was facing south. This was obviously the place the swami came to get his daily sunshine. 

“So, we can practice Krishna consciousness in any condition of life,” the swami was saying. I sat down on the pavement next to one of the Canadian devotees and tried to look inconspicuous. This extemporaneous outdoor class was a bonus I hadn’t counted on.
“Whether one is rich or poor, anyone can practice Krishna consciousness and perfect one’s life.”

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

He Walked In

The morning class had just ended when an eighteen-year-old York University student walked in.  Don is from Nigeria, and arrived in Canada when he was nine.  “I was religious, close to Jesus, before I migrated with my family.  What is this place anyway?” he asked.

“Well, you walked into a Krishna Temple.”

“I’m not sure how I got here!”

“You mean you were just drawn or pulled in?” I asked for clarification.

“Yes, it seems like it.”

“How did you get here?”

“By bus.”

In any event, although his coming had come mystical overtones to it, I proceeded to show him the deity of Krishna, spoke some philosophy to him about true identity, and got him to chant with me the entire maha mantraseveral times.  I even picked up the mrdungadrum and played it while singing, again with him.

“Our identity is as a spirit soul.  We are not these bodies.  We are spirits, and our obligation is to serve.”

“So we are meant to serve?” Don asked.

“Yes!” I said.

“We are spirits?”

“Yes.” I confirmed.

Don seemed to enjoy his visit to the temple.  “I’ve got class at 10.  I’ve got to go.  What time is it?”

“ 9:09.”

“I’ve gotta go!”

“Do come back.”

“I’m gonna try,” he said.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

To Get Serious

It was certainly nice to be home, which means roll up the sleeves and be some kind of coach.  With Billy, our temple coordinator, we went through the men’s ashram—inspection time. It wasn’t so thorough but it was meaningful to go and do more than peek into some of the rooms, for now.  

“Too many possessions!” was my thought concerning some of the paraphernalia a few students have accumulated.  Mostly it’s devotional material.  For example, if everyone has one set of Bhagavatambooks, plus a personal copy of each BBT publication, it tends to take up space.
These days with digital reality, it may not be necessary to be voluminous with paper occupying space.

In any event, an overhaul is due for the future, and that includes a renovation of sorts.  It’s been decades now since attention went to how to use the space effectively.  We will start approaching the women’s ashram first—also needing to catch up to millennial needs.

We do not have a great number of residents: eleven men, three women. Our facilities are not huge, but a redefinition of space usage is needed, and it’s my passion to see to a change. God help us to achieve such improvements.  With the month of Kartik on the lunar calendar, which is in our midst, we begin to concentrate more on Krishna, who becomes serious with childhood antics.  In that reflection on His bhaktipranks, His followers are moved to get more devotionally augmented. That is always our meditation and our desired implementation—to make improvements.  

My day ended with tweaking, or improving, our drama, which is to be performed at the Parliament of World Religions.  That’s a different crew.  They are volunteers from outside— congregants who are devotional, all the same.  https://www.parliamentofreligions.org/parliament/2018-toronto/schedule

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Amsterdam / Toronto

On Ground In Air

Long day.  Long waits. Delhi.  Amsterdam.  Then Toronto Airport.  New computers at customs.  No paper. Just pressing some buttons.  A long enough indoor walk to the outside. Time to think.  What did I think?  I remembered several brahmacharis coming to me on the last day at Kanpur. Those monks were saying, “We’ll miss you,” because we had the best times before the deities of Krishna.  We were singing and we were swinging with new moves—for them and me—dancing for God.

I’ll miss the readings in the morning.  The leader, Devakinanda, usually reads a page, a verse, a purport, to the assembly, but he just handed the Bhagavatamto me each morning.  A different voice I guess.

Also, special soup was made for me each day since I fell sick the first day.  Good soup. Good prasad.

From Kanpur to Lucknow, I had the good company of Australian monk, Ramai Swami, as a companion. We reflected on the week of talks.  ‘Constitution’ was one topic.  Yamala from Delhi was with us, too.  We made the drive over the Ganges to a quaint airport—the kind we like.

I walked little this long day.  With no baggage, I can do the long corridors of Amsterdam, but the wheels on a suitcase won’t take it.  While there, I met these groups of acquaintances from Toronto who were on their way to Delhi—not known to each other, but now they are; since they saw my saffron, it pulled us all together.

What did we say? Well, everyone’s not that happy about the lax Canada cannabis rules.  There’ll be problems.  Always in this world, there’ll be problems.  Know how to ride them.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Thursday 25 October 2018

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Lucknow / Delhi

Moving On With Repairs

A physiotherapist by the name of Sita-Ram did a splendid job on my body just hours before leaving for the Lucknow Airport.  He and his apprentice did a kind of makeover on the machinery.

“What’s bothering you?” he asked first, before beginning the therapy.

“Well, today it’s been the left knee,” I admitted.  So they tackled that and all connected to that pivotal part of the leg. Sita-Ram and companion were thorough and even left me with some exercise moves in order to prolong the improved body. He expressed about the arthritic ‘other’ knee, too.  That’s not news to me, of course.  He encouraged me to keep walking—which I’ve noted just one more time from one more expert.

This body is meant for mobility.  It’s also meant for God.  I just can’t imagine not having it in operating condition, for going to the temple or just that recreational stroll.

I’m seeing my peer monks departing for their distant lands—Ramai Swami—off to Australia, Badri Narayan Swami—off to Los Angeles; he’s moving around with a cane, poor guy.  I might be there some day, but heaven forbid; we will try to avoid that as far as possible.

I tell myself, “Do that walking and be preventative.  Watch the diet.”  So I had bindi the other day.  Bindi means okra and I'm told it’s good for the joints.  I’m glad I'm connected to Indian cuisine, which is big on the stuff.  I love it when it’s offered to Krishna.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

To a Village

There is this fantastic walk-around space that allows for circumambulating the deities of the temple.  The deity’s names are Gaura-Nitai, Radha-Madhava and Sita Rama Laksman Hanuman, and they look to be well maintained.  For the small amount of walking I'm doing while here, at least it is meaningful, stepping around them in the traditional clock-wise fashion which is to include the entire peripheral edge of the building.  https://www.instagram.com/p/BpK1a83lCUs/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1chswiv8zbg6z

I struck it lucky this morning, once again, when Kala Kanta and I, along with Yamal from Delhi, got treated to a visit to a local village.  Typically rustic and peaceful, this place, under the supervision of one of our men, Divya Nitai, is all about eco-ism and agriculture.  The place is super clean with cow/bull dung all about, indicating the presence of such animals, which are loving and extremely pet-able.

In every little nook and cranny of this village, something is going on.  A woman sits quietly husking corn.  A man cuts local fodder-grass with a thrashing machine. You even have a man on a rooftop in the lotus position meticulously shaving himself with a straight-blade, right out in the open.

In this village, which produces cloth, milk, dahl, mustard oil and more, you have plenty of things going on.  Divya showed us around the school, which was not in session today, being Sunday, and all other operations, as well as a great view of the Ganges.  These villages have it all and according to him the place is practically self-sufficient.  It is so inspiring, with the last, most attractive feature being no cars. 

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Booster Words

In our plenary meetings, many discussions were held, including the topic of having female gurus.  That prospect is looking rather favourable, I’m happy to see.  Still, it’s been some days now sitting.  We all do it as a service.  The talks are necessary and the call of duty is of paramount importance.

Nevertheless, I do get antsy.  I felt blessed to be asked to give a boost talk to the young brahmacharimonks.  Perhaps eighty of them sat snuggly together to hear about inspiration and motivation behind bhakti,and particularly about the walking I’ve undertaken.

I told of stories of bear and moose, of interaction with people, how to contend with the elements, and what that does for me.  Adventure and building strength are always topics appealing to young men.

I noticed a good number of temple visitors also poking their heads into our space, listening intently.  I spoke to the crowd with such words as, “Most of you will be fathers and husbands, unless you already are, and you will have a big responsibility and carry on in life in the spirit of sacrifice.  You’ll be changing diapers (laughter).  So, these days of training are highly important for preparation of life skills. I really wish you the very best.”

The class was to run for an hour but somehow or other it extended itself, with questions, for an extra hour.  Oops! I was late for the afternoon session of meetings.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Bathoor, Uttar Pradesh


Four of us, Radha Krishna from Hungary, Achintya from India, Kala Kanta from South America and I were escorted to Bathoor and beyond.  We visited three auspicious places.  First of all, today is the first day of Dussehra.  People celebrate the time when Ravana, the epitome of evil, was vanquished by Rama.  This is, of course, a great triumph, and people were starting to get out and about, however, we were lucky.  Our first stop was at the birth place of Dhruva, the saintly boy who demonstrated so much courage at age five.  This place, next to the Ganges, is full of shanti, peace.

Our next point of interest was Brahmavarta, the place where progenitor, Brahma, performed his tapasya, austerity.  We found many pilgrims bathing there.  Our attention was brought to a small hole in the ground from where a spring of water spews out water, and is the site where Brahma sat.  https://www.instagram.com/p/BpIGySDl8IA/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1gl4jyz3cww43

Then, surprisingly nearby, is the location where Valmiki wrote the epic, Ramayana.  This was also a place less travelled.  On top of a hill is a shrine in the sage’s honour.

We indulged in these three treasures, but when we got back to the temple—which is not at all ancient compared to the places of tirthawe visited—it was celebrating its fourth anniversary.  Much went on, including an abhisheka—washing of the temple deities.  Kirtan came on strong.  I was asked to lead.  Shortly after Lokanatha Swami arrived, I gave the mic to him and stood up for dance. The new brahmacarisand I became like ‘wild childs’.  God, it was fun—spiritual, and fun.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

A Sharing to the Outside World

Between today’s meetings, the local television outlet came to interview me. I couldn’t get the name of the station but one of the participants to interview me, a Krishna devotee, was keen to know about two major things:  Why all the walking?  And, secondly, what is it about Krishna Consciousness that youth can find stimulating?

First of all, the long walks through countries are a way to connect with people. You are trekking along by the road and a motorist takes a fancy, offers a ride, to which you decline, and then you strike up a conversation, bringing them that much closer to nature and its maker. I also explained that numerous opportunities arise to speak to the public by way of media networks and talking engagements at community centres, libraries, yoga studios, and so forth. “The health benefits of walking are also immeasurable.”

The big draw for youth to the Hare Krishna, in India and abroad, is the practice of kirtan.  “Kirtanis a collective effort to share the joy of the soul.  People love the beat of the drum which makes you want to dance.  The singing is uplifting and is an import beyond the universe.”  I went on to say that it is a party.  Young people in particular are trying to find their place in the world.  Kirtanis very grounding.

Before the crew left, I asked if the group would speak with their feet.  I had an incentive now to be the interviewer and ask them something basic for Instagram.  So we did something. https://www.instagram.com/p/BpFlTLelbaV/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=xnsy7gairue3

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

With the Stars

I started my day under the stars, both outside and within the temple courtyard.  It was quiet.  At 3:00 a.m., however, there were still some lingering sounds—songs and bhajansof sorts in praise of some god.  It was live music, amplified from nearby temples, and always with a popular/Bollywood genre.  Other than that, there were the stars to remind me of my smallness.  It only required a slight stretch of the neck and there they were.

The word ‘stars’ is so loosely used.  They certainly do twinkle; bright lights that sometimes fade.

Sitting to my right in today’s meetings is Radha Krishna Das from Hungary.  He’s sharp and attentive to details, especially on today’s basic topic of varnashram, the four social and spiritual orders Sri Krishna speaks about in the Bhagavad-gita.

To my left is seated Bhakti Brngha Govinda Swami, born in Memphis, Tennessee, and known for his musical output of the popular kirtan.  He’s more of the artist type.  During the afternoon session of talks on the above subject, which lasted for some hours, he leaned over to me and whispered, “How about you and I jump up on these tables and get some dance going?”

Like him, I find the discussions go on and deserve attention.  Still, it’s good to have a break now and then and perhaps entertain a bit.

In any event, I was sandwiched between two ‘dudes’ who are really lit.  They’re my stars.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday 21 October 2018

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Dark Night, Bright Day

My first day in Kanpur was a sweet/sour one. First of all, this place is another one of those sacred spaces. Emperor Dhruva, famous at the age of five, a Puranic hero, ruled in this area.  Only ten kilometres from the new ISKCON Centre is the spot from where he reigned.

I am also informed that nearby—a mere 100 kilometres away—is the site of Canto Six character, Ajamil.  So to land a project here with a gorgeous temple is simply justified.

I was given a spacious room on the second floor, a quiet one for gaining a rest, finally.  However, the night turned darker than usual.  At 10:30 p.m., I was stricken by an intense fever, then dizziness.  I couldn’t raise myself to reach out for the phone to call for help.  The vertigo was too much.  Vomit came next.  I crawled out of the room to Pancharatna’s room for help.  He was not hearing my knock at the base of his door.  My only comfort was to lie there in the corridor on the cool marble floor, hoping someone would come.  After an hour of that, I knocked again.  This time louder and finally he came to the door.  He was in a kind of shock.

“I can’t get up,” I said, “I’m dizzy.  Some food poisoning maybe.  Can you get help?  I’ve been calling for help but nobody hears me.  I’m sorry.”

Pancharatna was quick to act as I held tight in my hand the phone number of my assistant.  I told him I’d crawl to the room but that I left my thrown-up food on the floor. About three men came.  I don’t really know how many. They cleaned and one stayed.  I had a good sleep.  I felt great again with the energy of Iron Man.  I attended a full day of meetings.  I was back to normal, thanks to you-know-who—the flute player.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Monday, October 15th, 2018
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Walking – A Poem

English poet and clergyman from the 17thCentury, Thomas Traherne, wrote a beautiful poem, “Walking.”  Complements of Kaustubha.

To walk abroad is, not with eyes, 
But thoughts, the fields to see and prize; 
Else may the silent feet, 
Like logs of wood, 
Move up and down, and see no good 
Nor joy nor glory meet. 

Ev’n carts and wheels their place do change, 
But cannot see, though very strange 
The glory that is by; 
Dead puppets may 
Move in the bright and glorious day, 
Yet not behold the sky. 

And are not men than they more blind, 
Who having eyes yet never find 
The bliss in which they move; 
Like statues dead 
They up and down are carried 
Yet never see nor love.

To walk is by a thought to go; 
To move in spirit to and fro; 
To mind the good we see; 
To taste the sweet; 
Observing all the things we meet 
How choice and rich they be. 

To note the beauty of the day, 
And golden fields of corn survey; 
Admire each pretty flow’r 
With its sweet smell; 
To praise their Maker, and to tell 
The marks of his great pow’r. 

To fly abroad like active bees, 
Among the hedges and the trees, 
To cull the dew that lies 
On ev’ry blade, 
From ev’ry blossom; till we lade 
Our minds, as they their thighs. 

Observe those rich and glorious things, 
The rivers, meadows, woods, and springs, 
The fructifying sun; 
To note from far 
The rising of each twinkling star 
For us his race to run. 

A little child these well perceives, 
Who, tumbling in green grass and leaves, 
May rich as kings be thought, 
But there’s a sight 
Which perfect manhood may delight, 
To which we shall be brought. 

While in those pleasant paths we talk, 
’Tis that tow’rds which at last we walk; 
For we may by degrees 
Wisely proceed 
Pleasures of love and praise to heed, 
From viewing herbs and trees.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Some Ideas at the Airport

I chatted with a hippy artist from Berlin at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. He’s on his way to Haridwar in the Himalayan Foothills.  He will be meeting other comrades of the same guru.  Going to India to retreat with a like-minded fellowship is rather common for a category of travellers.  India has that reputation for being a spiritual magnet, although the approaches to spirituality may differ. https://youtu.be/q0aiauAxGHc

That is certainly the case of my friend, Andrew, who has his loyalties to his Berlin-born master while I hold an allegiance to my guru, Prabhupada, and to his institution.  We basically agree on many fronts—philosophically, socially and ethically, perhaps because we both draw from the same source—the Vedas.  We hit common ground on several points.   http://www.krishnapath.org/free-ebooks-audiobooks-of-srila-prabhupada/

1)   Beyond all the noise, dust, humans and chaos in India, there is a deep spiritual essence.

2)   We all have an obligation to cooperate with nature and the elements.

3)   A major objective in life is to get clean / pure in our heart.

4)   The words of Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita are powerful and relevant but can be complex for the ordinary person. 

In the course of the great talks with Andrew, the shoes on my feet gave off an awful stench after having recently been drenched by rain and wet grass.  I searched for one of those cosmetic boutiques and picked up “Ritual of Sakura,” a fragrant spray for the shoes and feet. That took care of that.

So, I'm learning airport survival skills starting with nice talks and nice scents.

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Saturday, October, 13th, 2018

Mississauga, Ontario

Rain and Grass

I invited our few guests to try a simple walk in the neighbourhood.  We received a fresh and fine rain shower that inspired. My guest from Florida declined, “It’s too cold.”  It was on the defense.  It was a decent 7° Celsius.

“Now this air is fresh.  It has much prana! Prana means living force,” I explained.  Indeed it was a fresh trek—one I’ve done many times.  He missed out.

I was so happy to see Murari Gupta, our doctor-friend and devotee from Miami, who then got onboard a van destined for Mississauga from Toronto. The Grover family hosted a team of us to a grand meal.  That was fine too.  They went all out with masterful preps.  Then I was off to the airport!

While waiting at Pearson Airport I delighted in a good read.  Mukunda’s book, “Miracle On Second Avenue,” details the first temptation to come to him after making vows to the Swami, especially “no intoxication.”  http://www.krishnapath.org/Library/Random-Books/Miracle_on_Second_Avenue.epub.pdf

“The others joined in.  Wolf and his friends were enthusiastic about the chanting… They obviously knew something about Indian mantras…  They sang loudly and clapped along, pausing only to take a few deep tokes on the pipe. 

‘Wow.  That mantra’s powerful,’ Wolf said when we finished.  He shook his head back and forth fast…  ‘Here,’ he said, thrusting the saliva-soaked water pipe hose at me, ‘have a hit now.’

‘No thanks.’

‘OK, I get it,”’ Wolf said.  ‘So, you guys don’t need grass to get high.  OK.  OK!’

Everyone laughed.”

May the Source be with you!
4 km