Monday, 26 November 2018

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Richmond Hill, Ontario

Meet Arnav, Chess Master

I remembered to call my dear sister, Rose Ann, to say, “Happy Birthday.”  A good day it was for her and also for we bhakti-yogis who are honouring this last day of the month of Kartik, the month of Krishna as a child.  I headed north today on Yonge, opposite direction to yesterday, from our ashram to the corner of Lawrence.

There Kishor picked me up for a song ceremony and food with friends, to commemorate the month where candles are presented.  At his home in Richmond Hill, families came including neighbours.  Kishor moved here from Atlanta not long ago and started a successful IT business.

I met his son, Arnav, age eight, who recently returned from Santiago de Campastella, the famous place where the world’s most renowned footpath begins in Spain.  Arnav went to Spain with his family to engage in chess.  Contestants came from all over the world.  He represented Canada and was able to make the trip with parents and sister because he gained a grant/scholarship for being the champ in his age group.  Smart kid! He scored well.

Krishna plays chess.  I imagine He wins.  We are not informed about His batting average at the game.  We know He is fond of it.  I’ve never ventured into the game.  Of anything, I try to champion walking.  

At least guests at Kishor’s home were impressed at my six kilometres.  “Aren’t you cold?” “There’s a full moon!” two remarked.

“Yes, these features add to inspiration.  Six K is nothing.  Standing in one spot causes freezing in this weather, but walking keeps you warm.”

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Six Kilometres

Billie dropped me off at Yonge and Lawrence, leaving me with a nice six kilometres to make it back to the ashram.  I say “nice” because Yonge Street southbound is a smooth gradual downward slope toward Lake Ontario.  One day, when I walked this route, a film company with a camera affixed to the roof of a car was capturing a half dozen, or so, young skateboarders going on that downward incremental slope.  There was a grating sound against the asphalt, but those guys were in ecstasy, having the time of their lives, while getting filmed on ‘Take Number who-knows-what’.

It was at 7:30 p.m. when Billie dropped me off, night time, of course, but the street with its lights was enough so I could see where I was going.  Shops, mostly independently owned—in other words, not chain-stores—cast their own light onto the sidewalk.

The weather was reported to be brutal with high northern winds.  I couldn’t feel it much.  I sported my new bright-orange, amazon, winter coat, compliments of Gurudas and Amala from Hawaii, and it protected me sufficiently.

I received a call from elsewhere in Canada.  Someone needed to talk, needed reassurance, some advice.  I did the best I could, at least listening to the concerns of personal matters.  To console I spoke of Arjuna who underwent the biggest of tasks and challenges, and who overcame them because he became fixed on duty and love, which in Sanskrit are dharmaand prema.

Snow, the nice kind, soft and fluffy, came down from the sky.  It created magic for the walk.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Argentina / Canada

Go! Geronimo!

Seva and Camila were the great couple who saw me off when I was departing back to Canada. Once boarded, I would occasionally take a peek at the screen indicating what, geographically, our flight was soaring over.  For a while it was indicating we were over the Amazon, then the equator, the Caribbean, Florida and so on.  We were forging ahead.

I reflected also on one of my favourite renderings of art displaying Krishna and Arjuna on a chariot with horses in full ‘charge’ mode.  “Move forward!” it seems to say. “Leave maya, illusion, behind.”  A massive blow-up of this piece, by artist Baradwaj, adorns the wall by the entrance gate at the temple in Buenos Aires.  It is powerful.

When I was a kid it was common to do a war cry, when imitating an attack on an ‘enemy’, and to yell, “Geronimo,” the name of the great Apache leader from the New Mexico area.  “Geronimo” was also a cry used by parachuters in American movies to denote they were jumping out of a plane. 

When I see that picture of Krishna, the wise man, and Arjuna, the warrior, in that progressive stance, I get very inspired.  There are many reasons, these days, for disappointment and depression. It is in those times of discouragement that we must conjure up some profile or image that does it for us.  It is a duty or dharmathat must be done, and so do it with a gusto, as if to say, “Geronimo!”

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

By the Rivers

The local brahmachari monks, in addition to many friends made, took to a walk along the popular rivers that come to confluence, one of them bearing the name “Tigre.”  It was a holiday called “Islas Malvinas,” and in memory of lost lives—remember the Falkland Islands War. So many people were out along the waterfront.  We received many mixed reactions, mostly favourable, toward our unique and exotic dhotis,the attire of some of us.

At one spot where two rivers meet, we decided to sit under shady arched vines and have an impromptu chat.  We were determined for a ten minute kirtan which was just too much to handle for a couple of local, middle-aged ladies.  They let us know, in Spanish of course, that they didn’t approve of our sound which in our estimation was soft and sweet.  Meanwhile boats with powerful and boisterous engines were constantly flying by and I guess their “noise” was okay for our two agitated people, who went away in a huff and a puff.

It was a six kilometre trek which began from DakshaVegetarianoRestaurant, and ended there after a loop of a trail.  Daksha is the owner and operator of the cozy facility, where she treated forty of us to an amazing gesture of kindness—a grain-less ekadasifeast.  What a fine way to end my visit, which included an extensive massage circle at the outdoor section of the café.

It was also departure day for a number of us.  The walk, the meal were garnished with some tears.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Sunday, November 18th2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

They Wanted More

The crowds wanted more.  “Kirtan! Kirtan! Kirtan!” was repeatedly shouted. It was 8 o’clock at night, the end of the stage show.  Merudevi, the prime organizer of the Festival of India (year after year) asked me to close the show.  I was given a half-hour.

So, there we were at the location of Plaza Mitre with its amphitheatre dynamic, putting a closure to a fine and exhilarating event for the day.  Mrdunga and djembe drummers were behind me. Women dancers in traditional garb were to my left, demonstrating the movement I established for the animated crowd.

All that our guru taught us, the mantra, the dance, the joy (feliz) of the Jagannath culture is what we were immersed in. It was most satisfying.  With the grand finale now over, came all these folks, one-by-one, with their smart phones, wanting a photo and giving congratulations for the kirtan and the play: “Mucho Madres, Mucho Padres.”

By the way, our drama crew was splendid.  To get an outside crowd to remain focused on a tearful, emotional piece is not easy, but somehow or other the magic worked. Coming an extra day early, paid off.  It allowed for a tighter more practised production, one that I feel Prabhupada, our guru, would be proud of.

Also, I had such a nice group to work with.  Mostly devotees from the radical punk scene.  I am usually surrounded by an Indian, immigrant-based community. Here it’s a hard-core, soft-hearted bunch of people.  Both are wonderful.

May the Source be with you!
8 km

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Stir It Up

I find the trees rather tall in Buenos Aires, and during my walk in the city they appeared very plentiful.  Today I discovered that these jolly green giants are perched and climbed on by birds and squirrels and also quite frequently by man.  They have a system here where a company comes to thin the tree branches.  Guys in green were really at it with the cherry pickers, pulleys and chainsaws.

One local devotee, Seva Kunj, mentioned to me that the storms here cause major damage with falling branches on cars, homes and even people.

I was thinking that pruning or a weeding of sorts is a personal undertaking we should always apply to our varying levels of contempt, anger, lust and so on.  I’ve always found mantrameditation to have a good effect in this area.  It is a way to surface the poisons within.  It reminds me of the story of the churning of the ocean of milk, by gods and demons.  They stirred up all the contaminants that lay beneath before the great treasures were to be enjoyed.

The message is: “Stir it up!” and “Get to the essence!”

Outside of hearing a nice class from Bhakti Gaura Vani Swami, eating and some greeting, another day was spent in the drama practice.  It’s a meditation in itself.  What talent there is in the form of these volunteers!  Such patience too!  I am blessed as director.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Long Day, Fine Night

It had been a long day of immersion into the story of King Chitraketu through drama practice.  It involves twenty-five volunteers plus, and we all work hard.  That, and e-mail correspondence, brought me to beyond midnight. I began my committed chanting of sixteen rounds on my meditation japabeads, while pacing back and forth in the courtyard under a fun sky, where whitish clouds appear and move on, at play with a glowing moon.  The air and wind are very alive at this time of year, full of prana, life force.  It is spring here.

My walking was in a shape of eight, just to add an extra feature to the already beautiful and peaceful moments that were passing.  At one point, I walked to the entrance of the courtyard by the wrought-iron gate, only to see or hear people active in the party-mode.  Loud voices, especially, filled the atmosphere, and I questioned, of what value is most of the boisterous conversation?  Not worth much, I concluded.  Under the influence of substance, what priceless parlance could there actually be?  Especially if it rattles on and on.

God, I thank you for sparing me from the lifestyle I am hearing outside the gate.  I was there before.  I reflected on the verse that I spoke from in the Bhagavatamclass earlier, yesterday.  It is a well-quoted one, spoken of by our guru, Prabhupada.  From 10.14.8 it reads as such: tat te’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāno… Translation: Oh Krishna, one who constantly waits for Your causeless mercy to be bestowed and who goes on suffering the reaction of past misdeeds, offering You respects from the core of the heart, is surely eligible for liberation for it has become his/her rightful claim.

I guess I better get eligible.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Monday, 19 November 2018

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Service is Safest

I’m staying in a small house that’s plopped onto a flat rooftop of the temple building. I have been chanting on my beads while pacing on that rooftop.  This is how I’m getting some mileage in, all except for the occasional sit-down on a bench where the temple cat, Ruki, comes to join me.  I think she likes hearing my chanting.  She wants some affection so I give her a stroke with my left hand, every so often, while my right hand is fingering the beads.

One of the reasons for walking or pacing on the rooftop is that the traffic is a bit crazy outside at street level.  There are many one-ways, and street lights cater only to the motorists.  There isn’t always a light to caution the pedestrian. Just see how most things are geared up for the automobile and not the person?

Another reason for avoiding the street, to some extent, is for another level of safety. Since a friend of mine was attacked in the rather safe city of Vancouver, then drugged, stripped and hung, suspended head down from a tree for twenty-four hours, I’ve been less inclined to trust.  This was last September at the edge of Stanley Park.  He managed to get loose, crawl through a forest trail moaning for help, where a female runner found him and then called the police.  My friend is a bhakti-yoga practitioner and is in his early sixties.  He spent days in the hospital with torn ligaments.  On the phone he sounded quite confident and strong, fortunately. Anyway, the world we live in is running less safe.  The greatest safety is in service.  I'm glad to be engaged with a group of loving dramatists during my stay in Argentina.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Time in the Basement

“How are you doing?” asked Seva Kunj in the midst of our play practice.  He could have asked me that in Spanish.  That’s the least I know.  My Spanish is poor.

“So far, so good!” I replied.

“I wish we had a saying like that in Spanish.”

“You don’t have?” I asked with curiosity.


And so the whole day rolled out with trying to direct the drama through a Spanish/English medium.  We have scripts for “Many Mothers, Many Fathers” in both languages, but it becomes very time consuming utilizing both languages, though necessary.  Already the hours are long—10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with a half-hour break for lunch.  No complaints. It’s all done in His service.  After all, it’s a drama with a spiritual message.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In fact it was before 10:00 a.m. while having breakfast with Godbrother Virabahu that we both reflected on our good fortune in having a spiritual life.  I asked him, “Where would you be if you didn’t live consciously?”

“I don’t know where I’d be.  I can’t imagine.”

I added, “I probably would have jumped off a bridge.”

He raised his eyebrows when I said that, as if to personally concur.  Yes, we are grateful for our work, even though it’s hard at times.  He expressed some of his administrative challenges “where you often detect the dark side of spiritual life,” he said.

Admiringly I replied, “You sacrifice a lot.”

For myself I put no time into walking today…. Just too dead by the end of the day.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We’re Here

In the line-up at customs, which seemed to last forever, the tall, athletic man behind us was a flying trapeze artist.  He was curious about Balaram and I, especially since noticing my robes. Whenever there is a shared complaint, in this case, a slow, crawling queue, conversations strike up.

“What are you guys up to?” asked Greg.

Balarama was quick to respond. “We’re here for a festival.  Maharaja, here,” referring to me, “is a director of plays. We are performing at a downtown park on Sunday, at an event called Ratha Yatra.”


Balarama continued. “It’s a story from the Vedas, from India.  How about you?”

“I’m here for a few months—used to work with the circus—flying trapeze.  I’ll be doing some swimming.  Races.” said Greg.

“In the river?”

“No, an Olympic pool!”

Our conversations went on and we felt like we had met a friend, or rather, reunited with a member of the troupe.  Upon arriving at ISKCON’s property in Buenos Aires, we met Parama Karuna, professional dancer, an actor from Peru, who is definitely one of our guys.  There’s artist Camila, and sound expert, Seva Kunj, her husband.  They are poised for a play that will have ample time for rehearsal, hopefully.

Also at the entrance to greet us was Vira Bahu, from Los Angelas, leader of the centre, friend and well-wisher.  We practiced for hours—didn’t skip a beat and had fun pulling a reality—a play—together.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Connecting With Natives

Just before departing for the airport, two native fellows from the Cree Tribe came to visit.  Whether it was a true story or not, about them being survivors of the ill-fated residential schools, I agreed to their favour.  They are from James Bay, way up north.  They needed something for air fare to get back home.  Both were quite coherent and respectful.  I was happy to meet them.

Balaram and I then left for the flight to Argentina, which is just under eleven hours long.  I took to my rounds of chanting, did some reading and then watched a documentary on trekking some of the great trails of the world, which climaxed at Nepal and Mount Everest.  God knows I have a tough time sleeping on a plane.

I also took the opportunity to view “Woman Walks Ahead” a feature film based on American history, about the artist Caroline Weldon, and Chief Sitting Bull.
It was nice and I came to some reflection on the native folks again.  It also brought memories of walking Lower Michigan in 2016.  I came to a town where the museum has as their treasure on display, some original drawings by Sitting Bull.  He was a good artist.  The pieces on display were renderings of horses, which were his way of getting around.

The story in the film leaves a sad ending with the death of the chief.  That European invasion of the Americas was tragic as are many events in the world.  The recent shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadly fires in California, and many more challenges of natural or unnatural causes demonstrates the insecure state of affairs.  We must strive to do better with what is in our power. 

May the Source be with you!

1 km

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Ottawa, Ontario

Contemplate On Those Who Gave

Jagajivan and I hit the trail at a silent hour.  Perhaps a contemplative tranquility pervaded, because on a double level, on this Remembrance Day morning, we were reflecting on sacrifices made by men and women in times of war, and today also marked, by our lunar calendar, the passing of our guru, Prabhupada.  We are indebted.

I read my poem on the images of Prabhupada to two groups of audiences.

Images of You

There are many moods projected about you
Reflected in pics, so many, not few.
They are diverse colours of a true saint
That are captured by camera or brush with paint.

Moods of gravity, solidity and weight,
The serious look that defines the great.
Moods of lightness, moments of humour,
Of laughter, jokes and human candour.

My favourite photos are of your smile.
They inspire and push for the extra mile.
They lure and lock-in an eager soul
Who’s on a search for the ultimate goal.

You say, “The face is the index of the mind.”
The exterior can determine the kind.
Dare I judge the face, Your Divine Grace?
Yet I presume purity rests at that place.

You profile as a master, scholar, or king,
A general, a warrior, the spirit of Narasingh.
Paradoxically, you’ve shown your ability
To portray a servant in all humility.

There are images of you, in reverent prayer.
Those are the stills not really so rare—
Images of concern for us as we go
On a hobble or a crawl and move so slow.

I like the pics when you enjoyed the play.
It was in New York at the end of one day.
Krishna eloped with the grand princess,
Rukmini, being the damsel in distress.

It was drama that brought you some delight
As actor princes put up a good fight.
Your viewing the play is precious indeed,
An impression that waters the bhaktiseed.

There are action shots of your teaching and talking.
Action shots of reading and walking.
They are signatures, brands, trademarks—
Images that pull us out of the dark.

Grateful are we for those generous poses
That strike the heart like petals of roses.
One frozen moment of your deep contemplation
Leaves us with a piece for worthy conversation.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Russell, Ontario

Tis the Life

Jagajivan, Samuel and I took to the trail on this day of utter shanti, peace.  Oh, how fortuitous it was—like heaven.  Fresh air.  The snow ran through it, leaving a freshness which is so conducive for walking with the mantraon your lips.

We veered off to penetrate through a conservation haven comprised of cedars and hardwoods.  Below our feet were newly-fallen leaves in a sprinkled-snow-and-slush combination. The three of us had no doubt in our minds that this is where we wanted to be.  We were one.

The inevitable reality is that the trail does come to an end.  We had to surrender to the look and the culture of timeline-ing. By 8:00 a.m., we had to be in the Registry Building, now a cultural hall were devotions to Krishna and judo martial arts take place.

The rest of a perfect day then rolled out—a day of sanga and hearing from others on the devotional path from different parts of Canada.  What a congenial group we are!  Of course I can say so of others.  For myself, I can surely attest to spurts of rotten consciousness.

We began with Guruvastakam, a song in honour of guru.  That’s how every day actually begins, with men and women swaying and praying.  A mrdungadrum, a harmonium, and a pair of kartalsare the instruments that make the sound of the song complete.

Our meetings began, meaningful, relevant, reassuring and continued into the night, with breaks in between.

Tis the life!

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Russell, Ontario

His Foot

The season’s first serious snowfall came down, white, wet and slushy.  Our footwear wasn’t quite adequate for the sidewalk.  Jagajivan, Anuttama from Calgary, and I stepped into the Russell music academy and into the ‘Waiting Room’ for shelter.  That’s actually a Friday night veggie hangout.  Locals were doing a live rendition of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls.”  That was quite neat.  It was a brief stopover for us.

In reality, I was looking for an opportunity to find a great image to shoot, something that would say tons.  Nothing was coming up that I could share.  It had been a full day of presentations.  They were informative and fulfilling, nevertheless it made us sedentary. Only once did we ask Jagajivan to get us up off our laurels for some stretching.  He is our chosen boy as a trainer.  That was the best and only stretch for the day.

When we retreated with the Montreal monks to our evening station for sleeping, at Krishna Dulal’s home, I saw a possibility for a pic.  It was the pose of his home deity which captured me.  The deity goes by the name Natabara, dance master, a name reserved for Krishna. One of the monks, Marshall, held up a light.  Click! There it was—Krishna’s leg on a lotus pedestal while the other foot is suspended in the air in dance formation. Beautiful!

May the Source be with you!
1 km

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Russell, Ontario

I Like Trains

Much as I like walking, I also like taking the train.  I suppose I did have some choices on how to get to this bedroom community of Ottawa.  One option was catching a ride with other commuters going from Toronto to our Canadian Leaders Sanga.  Walking was not an option.  It would take me at least two weeks to get to Russell.  Out of the question.

I like the train because of the ample leg room.  Scenery is nice.  I see a gorgeous trail running edge-wise along Lake Ontario.  It is mouth-wateringly tempting.

I also had my peaceful moments.  I enjoyed reading from Mukunda’s book, where he describes the recording of the maha mantraat the studio on Abbey Road, London, when George Harrison insisted there be some multiple voices to support the main singer, Yamuna, who had that golden voice. George was practical.  He brought in some secretaries, agents and janitors, whomever he could grab, to create a greater volume of sound.  It was spontaneous and it was teamwork.  I love the book, Miracle on Second Avenue.

Okay, so I arrived at Ottawa’s Via Rail Train Station, where Mandala, one of my support persons for the U.S. walk, picked me up, and then dropped me at the arts building in Russell.  There, a group of us conducted a Govardhan Puja, which is done in India.  The story, in short, describes how young Krishna raised an amazing rock. The Herculean feat is honoured all over the planet on this day.  He executed the feat long before the invention of the train.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

D Day (Diwali Day)

After a few glorious hours of Diwali calls from people, and dealing with people in general, it was time for a walk, some fresh air,, and a head clearing before the evening influx.  Diwali is indeed a big deal for a lot of people.  It’s the New Year for some.  It’s a fun fest.  It’s family-and-temple time.  It commemorates enlightenment over darkness—Ravana.

I escaped with my coat and beads in pocket to Bloor Street, then up to Christie.  There, many eateries, pubs and cafes dominate.  I passed by Home Hardware, Dollar Plus, and some ticky-tacky shops and such.  There is also the Poop Café, and it is popular.  Ever time I take a peek the place is more or less packed.

I got my break.

Then evening came upon us.  Diwali lovers started to trickle in.  They came with anticipation.  Will there be diyas(ghee lamps) to light? Will there be something exciting in the atmosphere?  A talk perhaps?  Some kirtan chants maybe?

There were no set plans to address a fair-sized group of people. There they were, mostly young folks and some children.

Okay then, Lila Mayi and Hitesh were there for the regular Wednesday chanting.  We went to the mic, started singing, and said some words about the importance of chanting. The group responded.  We even formed a circle, a huge one, and encouraged a dancing movement.  The doors to the deities opened, and I leapt out to get things cooking in the kitchen for the crowd.  It was successful. Team work works.

May the Source be with you!
6 km