Saturday, 26 January 2019

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

26 Qualities

I walked in the evening, and came upon a park bench by a wintery young maple tree, dedicated to Bhaktivedanta Swami, who stood in that spot in June of 1976.  And I reflected on the twenty-six qualities of Godly men, as listed in the Gita, Chapter 16, Verses 1-4:

student of knowledge

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

In the Temple

Every day before any walking excursions on the streets of the city, we have something called Guru Puja,  a time for honouring the guru.  In our temple section of the ashram, there is a statue of Prabhupada, upon whom members of the ashram meditate and offer words, in Bengali, in gratitude for his contributions.  On either side of his statue, a replica of a lion stands proudly as a guard, symbolic of protection.

I spent considerable time today, sitting near these images which give me strength to carry on with administrative tasks. Strategically, it is a great place to get work done.  Pilgrims come here throughout the day, so for that portion of time, I become the greeter—provided I'm not on the cell—in which case I'll ask another ashram dweller, one of the monks, to have a few kind words to offer them, along with a 2019 calendar, and a piece of prasadam, blessed food in the form of a sweet, usually.

For a half hour, I gave full attention to reading over the phone to a dying god-sister in Victoria, British Columbia. Bhaktavasya is her name, and she is under the care of others. We have learned from our guru, Prabhupada, that such people, god-brothers or sisters, are very special.

So before I took a stroll on the streets for an hour, I found myself content watching people coming and going in our temple, and all the while, our Govinda's Dining Room is having a face-lift with new colours and some new furnishings.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

In Dryness and Slush

Over the weekend, an Ayurvedic doctor read my pulse and offered a few suggestions.  “Avoid sour if you can.  Too much acid is not good for you.”  He also implied, because I do a certain amount of walking each day, my feet, in particular, get too dry.  “Rub some sesame oil on the bottom of the feet before resting.” 

Those two steps were easy enough to follow, so I’ve begun.

I stayed overnight at Nanda and Ananda’s place, since their home is close to my dental appointment which was early in the morning.  The dental assistant who cleaned my teeth showed a real interest in mantra meditation. She also showed interest in helping me with better tooth care and gave me recommendations.  It looks like I received help from head to toe in the last twenty-four hours.

Then it was my turn to give to humanity what I needed to do for my own wellness, in addition to the wellness of others. There was already a demand for help. Circumstances (which I cannot reveal here for privacy sake) were in a queue, through text messages, telephone calls and  personal visits.  Each person had questions or just wanted to mildly vent.  It was okay.  Everything came in small instalments.  

The Tuesday sangha was on with discussions from Chapter Two of the Gita.  That was definitely a mental calmer.  And then more peace of mind came along later, while walking the slushy evening streets of the downtown.  Weather had warmed up.  Chanting softly over the slush helps one cool down.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Monday, January 21, 2019

Houston, Texas

People On The Way to The Farm

Ella becomes Wheatley Street at some point. It was on Ella that I met a middle-aged woman in a red pickup truck.  I walked by her home as she was about to back out onto the road, to run an errand, I suppose.  At first, she drove off, but then made a U turn, slowed, rolled down her window and stopped.

“Is everything Okay?” She continued, “I’ve never seen you walk around here.”

I spoke and then she carried on. “You’re sure you don’t need anything?” 

I felt a spirit-soul was reaching out.  The best thing that I could do was offer her a mantra card and let her know of our extraordinary Govinda’s Restaurant up the road. I was happy someone stopped on the rather busy roadway.

Once Ella turned into Wheatley, I met a second person, a pedestrian, and the only one I came across on this roughly two mile stretch. Part-Spanish and part-Caucasian and in his sixties, he began to talk. “It’s cold, but walking keeps me warm.  You know I like to walk, but I zig-zag a little.  You see, I fell once.  Damaged my head.  Went to a surgeon who sent me to another surgeon about my brain.  He said, ‘Yah don’t have a brain left to do surgery on.’” The telling of his story was followed up by his slight chuckle.  

I informed him that I had walked America, from Boston to San Fran and his eyebrows rose up.  “I’m Swami.  Good to know you,” I said.

The hand shakes with those two folks made my day, as I was on my way to the Bhakti Urban farm.  Someone had arranged for some ten to eighteen-year-old young people to meet me there and talk about connecting with nature.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Houston, Texas

Best Medicine

All of the attendees at this weekend’s medical conference were handed a credit-tracking record form to be tallied.  According to my addition, I can claim 11 points out of 14.75. Where my numbers went, I don’t know. Some missing points were due to my pulling out for drama practice.  I enjoyed the conference so much and I felt right at home with the group of medical professionals.  However, my greater passion is in drama presentations in the company of performers.

Both groups have something in common. Yes.  An entertainer offers the audience a type of medicine.  In fact, laughter is the best of medicines.  

One of the features of the Gauranga Hall is a stage which I stood upon to introduce our prepared piece, “First Timer.”  The Hall was full of medical people, congregants—including their children—and one monk, Ritavidya Swami.  So, I addressed the crowd,  “Comedy is an exaggeration of the truth.”  The curtains opened, unfolding a portrayal of an objectivity on an aspect of life.  In this case, the spectator is viewing some culture shocks that a newcomer sometimes goes through on a first visit to a temple.  

Yes, indeed, we make mistakes in the execution of our devotions.  We can laugh at them when staring at them—when they are “in our face.”  My only hope is that we can step ahead and correct some wrongs in regard to our dealings with new people, as well as dealings amongst ourselves. 

The performers did well.  I’m grateful to the young folks who laid out the short story.

My great highlights of the day are the medical presentations, the drama, and the topic I spoke on, from the Bhagavatam, which was ‘family’.  The word is derived from the Latin word famulus, and defined as “household of servants.”

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Houston, Texas

To Midnight

I was previously requested to give a class from the Bhagavatam and had no idea from which verse I would be speaking.  It ended up being one of those 10thCanto verses presenting a list of the names of  Krishna’s children.  There was little to no philosophical content to the verse, but somehow or other the hour-long space given to me ran smoothly.

I was also somewhat concerned about being the first presenter for the Bhaktivedanta Medical Seminar with theme “East Meets West: An Holistic Approach to Health” before approximately eighty professionals, many of them MDs.  My topic was “Putting Heart and Feet Together,” about walking and its benefits.  Whew! I got through that as well.  I find that you have to entertain a bit.  The idea is to bring the audience on the walk with you.

And walking, I did squeeze in.  Over two miles away from the ISKCON Centre is a farm lot with three gir cows, a beautiful home on nine acres.  A tour, a meal, and a cooking demo were the components to that visit. I met the man who first discovered oil in Guyana—a treat.  “Oil can ruin a nation that has learned sustainability,” he warned.  

From the farm, I walked back to Gauranga Hall, the place of the presentations on health. Finally, the day was over and my evening assignment began, working with local youth on a preparation for a Sunday drama.  “First Timer” is what it’s called.  It’s a short sketch and it’s comedic.  Comedy is a medicine.  It is an exaggeration of the truth.

Our practice took us to midnight.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Friday, January 18, 2019

Round Rock/Houston, Texas

With Tibetan Monks

Walking today consisted of a few steps along a spillway and the Bushy Creek Trail, and up to the home of Rama Vijay, one of the organizers of the famous Sadhu Sangha which takes place in North Carolina every year.  Rama Vijay is a handsome thirty-eight -year-old husband and father who most recently was stricken with cancer.  Although a very successful businessman, he had to desist from employment to work on regaining health.  With Ayurvedic treatment, a change of diet and other measures, he hopes to make a turnaround.

He asked me, “What did you speak about in the morning Bhagavatam class held at the suburban home of Rupa and Maha?”

I spoke from Canto 7, a verse from the progressive five-year-old Prahlad, and how he viewed no one as friend, and no one as enemy.  He was referring to a ‘oneness’ and that all souls are simply servants of the Supreme. In the purport, Prabhupada spoke of this point of view as Vaikunthathinking.  We are all servants.

Rama Vijay, who gets around with the aid of a walker, nodded in approval, liking the term “Vaikuntha thinking.”  I do wish RV well.

Whisked away down the interstate (on a set of wheels), a sweet family, with their dog, Chicoo, brought me to Houston which is east-bound. At the community centre, the community was deeply sunk into prasadam.Along with these good folks was a group of Tibetan monks.  It looks like they can enjoy pizza like a Krishna monk from Canada can.  They were very gracious and I believe the managers were reciprocally kind to them.  After all, hosts extend the warmth first, and then the gesture returns.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Round Rock, Texas

To The Heart of Texas

I was air-bound to reach Austin, Texas, and while waiting at the airport gate in Toronto, I could hear behind me two young women conversing casually, stumbling on the word “like” very frequently.  To me they sounded like caricatures.

Next, three tall fellows, quite loud in their expressions, came by to sit next to me where there was available seating.  One had on a cowboy hat.  Considering the flight, that was a give-away that they were Texans.

In the queue for boarding, a young oriental guy and I began chatting about weather and walking.  “Of course, walking is best in summer,” he expressed.

I mildly argued the point.  “Walking is good in all seasons.”

I was scheduled to give a talk, “Tales From Trails” and that happened at a community centre in Round Rock, just outside of Austin. A group of bhakti-yogis of the south-east Asian community were focused  on hearing of my U.S. pilgrimage.  I was personally proud of the fact that I did not have to merge-in any of my Canadian pastimes.  There is enough material there for both nations individually.

I also read a section of Chaitanya Bhagavat, about the life of traveler Chaitanya, followed by dance and song lessons for a kirtan. Chaitanya was a monk from the early 16thcentury, who trekked a lot, chanted, and danced with his companions, enthusing people from all walks of life.

As I have expressed in previous entries, I have remorse when I cannot fit in time for walking.  At least some leg movement occurred this evening in the form of dance.

I thank Rupasagara and Maha Sundari for hosting me.

May the Source be with you!
0 km  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

I Ventured Alone in Memory

I ventured out alone after leading a song in the temple.  I more or less burst out the door after an intense but good day.  Out I went into -9 Celsius weather, in my thick polar orange suit, prepared for the chill.  It was an exhilarating blast of cold, much to my liking for a brisk walk.

I walked along on Bloor and Robert Street where I noticed a church emptying out.  Trinity St. Paul’s Church is often a venue for great performances.  The people pouring out were a delighted audience who heard “The Harlequin Salon.” I went inside for a peek.  The original pipe organ is still set in the back area. Nice exterior building as well.

Some years ago, when Professor Joseph T. O’Connell, of U of T’s religious department, had gone to hear a concert, he and I happened to converge in the street.  He was with his wife, Kathleen.  He was a great scholar and had majored in Gaudiya Vaisnava history and culture. The Hare Krishna were his friends. He has passed on.  I attended his funeral services.  He always stood up for us in our early years.,3280/

Anyway, it was interesting meeting him outside St. Pauls.  I had just returned from another type of concert—a Straight Edge music display by the rock band “Shelter” with singer Raghunath.  O’Connell had come from a sophisticated music ensemble, and I had just emerged from Lee’s Palace, up the street, where heavy music blares out. They were two different worlds of music genres, although I really do have a taste for classical instrumental music personally.

Professor O’Connell, the scholar, asked our guru, Srila Prabhupada, when visiting Toronto in June of 1976, whether there were any female gurus in our tradition.  In short, the answer was, “Yes!” 

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

Nippy Fingers Nippy Legs

“My fingers are getting numb. I can hardly feel them,” said Narahari, who obviously was affected by the January evening chill. He fussed around with his Japa meditation beads, before sliding them into his coat pocket on the right side. We were walking through the residential area of Rosedale, and subsequently, I said, “I figured that one out years ago.  When your fingers get cold remove the beads from the pouch they’re in, and make your pocket the pouch (bead bag).

Narahari was chanting quite attentively in the course of our short walk, as we snaked our way through the curvy walkways of Rosedale. It’s really quite pleasant here despite the nippiness of the night.  The chill is no problem for a Canuck like me, but for Narahari, who hails from India, it was a new experience, so it seemed.

Narahari was remarking about the expensive homes, some of them mansions, and how none of them are acquisitions he would be interested in.  ‘Keeping it simple’ was what he was getting at.  I was thinking he was more like a monk than a householder.

We swung around in the direction heading back to the ashram where the day had been most interesting.  To catch a thief is more like what we went through, today, as it was Narahari who was the victim of theft two weeks ago.  Police came over to ask questions and give directions to a group of us should the thief reappear. 

The day was long, and at the end I was forwarded an article from the Toronto Observer on the topic (with pictures) of “The Walking Monk’ by journalist Doha Hanno.

May the Source be with you!
4 km 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

The Before and Now

It was in that same queue at the Vancouver Airport that the fellow next to me asked another curious question, after I told him I was a Southern Ontario kid raised on a farm, and that I became a monk in 1973.

“So what’s behind a boy from small-town Canada becoming a Hare Krishna monk?”

My answer was: “I was drawn to the simple life and to spirituality.  It came so naturally, and no doubt, it had something to do with my previous life and how I lived that out.  My inclinations from then spilled over into my current life.”

The man was intently listening and with a smile. It was just too bad our line was moving, and that we boarded the Air Canada plane, with him having his secured seat way in the back and mine being fairly close to the front on Flight 126. We could have had an ongoing dialogue.

Back at home in the ashram, I worked hours in a sedentary fashion on the phone and with pen on mission-oriented projects. It was fun, but in the evening, our ashramdwellers came together for our weekly gathering over Russian potato salad and a reading/discussion from Prabhupada’s Nectar of Devotion.  The topic was about fructified and unfructified seeds of karma,in regard to living out life reactions from our former lives, both good and bad.

In the discussion with Madhu and Andrey, we identified four positive assets that a person reaps from pious actions in the past—wealth or comfortable living, intelligence or common sense, good parentage, and physically wholesome features.  It was an interesting theme.

My last thoughts of the day, as I stood in the temple, were of the image of Radha’s, whom I refer to as the Queen of Toronto.

May the Source be with you!

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

New Westminster, British Columbia

Eagles and Planes

An eagle soared high above us.  Nitai Ram and I were taking a stroll by Meadow Avenue when I saw the large-winged fellow looming up in the sky, before he perched upon the leafless branch of a towering tree.  "The eagle population has been on the rise," I said to Nitai. "It's a good sign."

From eagles we can learn to look up high and also to aim high with our dreams.  Thank you Eagle.  We can all set our target for a better world with high values.

In that regard, both of us then departed to Ami's place for the ultimate joyful thing to do.  Two items, well, maybe three, which are optimum, as far as human engagement is concerned.  They are: 1) honouring blessed food (prasadam),  2) engaging in chanting (kirtan), and  3) taking in the company of spiritual people (sangha).

I wish the world could be more engrossed in such activities.  I was thrilled being in the company of members of Kirtan Vancouver.  Also by evening, after I delivered a class from the Gita to a Sunday crowd at ISKCON in Burnaby, I partook of the feast with the Canadian Federal NDP party leader, Jagmeet Singh.  Who knows? He could be the next Prime Minister of Canada.  A pleasant person he is.  He was very curious about my walks, so I expressed how powerful it was to connect with ordinary people along the way.  Good luck Jagmeet Singh.

Now it was time to fly (not like the eagle) back to the direction of eastern Canada, and in the queue, a tall young Caucasian asked a string of questions: "Are those swirling clothes comfortable?"

"Yes," I said, "and if there's an emergency and we have to jump out, my robes act like a parachute."  

To which he asked, "Is this like a Scottish kilt dynamic?" meaning, "Do you have anything on underneath?"

"Sure do."

The guy then said, "If there's an emergency and we jump, I'll hold onto your feet."

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Burnaby, British Columbia

Step In Sync

The assignment of being an administrator of sorts, as I am, can be a mountain to climb like the mountains I see in the distance. My walking, my presentations—be it chanting, giving a Bhagavatam class or doing a theatre production—are relatively easy.  But the issues with people present complexities. Nevertheless, the job must be done.

At our local ISKCON council meeting, I spoke passionately to our small group about becoming more relevant to the public.  We all know people who are frozen in the past, those who suffer from a time warp; who live a bit too much in the past. Some of those people are in the position of leadership but don't belong in such a post because progressive thinking has not been allowed to enter into the brain waves.

I've been in Vancouver now for a few days. It's a trail-blazing city in many respects, world-class, and is a popular destination, with its relatively clean atmosphere of lakes and scenic mountains.  Our group here needs to step up and get more in sync with the world around them.  I don't think they mind me saying this from an objective viewpoint.  We continue to lose a younger generation because we’ve become irrelevant.  Anyway, there's work to be done and I'm there to help in my limited capacity.

I dined at Janaki and Nandi's place.  Great aloo gobi!  I then met with some younger generation guys at a full-on veg restaurant on the Kingsway. I walked back on Marine Drive contemplating how a higher conscious community could become more relevant.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Venables Valley/Kitsilano, British Columbia

Dance, Dance, Dance

Much pleasure came from sharing a morning class with the students at Saranagati's school.  Our topic was about creation from the Vedic perspective.  I continued with a workshop on devotional dance.  Of course, everyone had a great time.

Then, off Jaya Govinda and I went to Vancouver, allowing ourselves enough time to reach a borough within the Greater Vancouver Area.  Kitsilano is described as a laid-back residential area known for the huge saltwater pool and mountain views from the beach.  Stores on West 4th Avenue, the main drag, sell yoga wear and outdoor gear. Vegetarian eateries are popular.

It is in the heart of Kitsilano that a fellow by the name of Abeeru, from Quebec City, has been running ecstatic dance sessions in the Russian community centre for twenty-six years.  A band of bhakti-yogis and myself were the guests.  The event went beyond midnight.  I was given two slots to lead.  One consisted of leading the crowd in similar dance steps as was done earlier in the event called, Just Dance.  Lights were low except for the myriad splashes of colour projected on the walls, ceiling and floor. When Abeeru, was setting the music as the DJ, I was asked to insert Sanskrit mantras over the beat.  It was beautifully outrageous.  The free-spirited crowd let loose with dance.  It was a clean group.  No alcohol, but cannabis on some breath, for sure.  Some participants are committed to visiting our Burnaby ISKCON branch on Sunday.  Fun!

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Spence's Bridge, British Columbia

The Valley and the Bridge

Jaya Govinda let me off at the juncture of the Trans Canada Highway and Venables Valley Road.  I put it to him like this: "If I don't walk now, I won't get a chance later."  He understood.  So from there I slowly ascended to a higher altitude by way of a country road which was slippery in parts.

At this late morning time, the sun was peaking in intensity.  I actually began to sweat despite the snow all around, and unpeeled my coat, but still perspired in the process of walking.

I came to some realization regarding meeting people.  Stay on the road and eventually motorists will take that road you're on.  They'll stop and talk in a small place like this. In the past I would walk from door to door to make a monk's visit, but I see now that you stay on the main trail and the world comes to you.

Now outside Venables Valley I know only a few folks.  Satarupa, a resident, kindly arranged a talk at the Spence's Bridge community hall, next to the Garuda Inn.  There's a hundred and fifty residents here, and the town is known for creating the Granny Smith's apple.  Far out!

Twenty-five or more people turned up, come from the valley, to hear a session of "Tales from Trails."  So, you have a mix of those who are informed of bhakti yoga and those who are not.  At Q and A time, a man from the valley asked, "What do you think of when you're walking?"

Answer (in short) was, "I contemplate on my three phases of time.  What I did that shapes me now and what I do now that shapes my future."

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Surrey, British Columbia

Autistic Kid

On a day when I found no room/time to walk, I came up with a song on what happened when on a visit to a home of a loving autistic kid.  You can put a tune to it.

Autistic Kid    ©Bhaktimarga Swami

Well, the rain is quite serious right now
To stand to nature and give that bow—
Is to see reality in its face
A duality you'll always find in this place
The condition is that I am house-bound
In the home of a fifteen-year-old boy
Who snuck to his room to fetch his toy
We were all sitting in the living room
Hearing the stories from his mum and her groom
He's been struggling slow since he was born
A life that can be seen as very forlorn
But the parents end up looking quite clean
In the love that they give to this young teen
Well, his name is Nick, he comes with a kiss
He's got two great saints and an urban sis
He's got a life of love and a lot of luck
He's got it good, he's strong like a forest buck
With a soul that's just like you and me
We heard of his life over herbal tea
We finished the eve with song and guitar
Before we all got to our respective car
We'll remember sweet Nick, he's so slick
Cause he may give you a kiss or give you a kick
And that's okay cause we know him quite well
Nick and his family we think they're so swell.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Coquitlam, British Columbia

Spiritual Trail

Balaram turned twenty, today.  He's reserved, stays away from drugs, plays the bag-pipes and likes Krishna.  Along with his Mom, Manohini, we ventured off to Nitai Priya's for a great meal of asparagus, dahl soup and salad.  Also with us were Dale and Danielle.  It was light talk.  We stuck to positive topics including the topic of walking.  Generally people are intrigued with the power-walking I've undertaken.  I relayed to these sweet people that chanting mantras in the course of foot-stepping is a strapping way to live life.

Juniper, a person, was there to sit but not listen. He's lovingly hairy but I suspect, given his pampered life, not much matters to him outside the comforts of the condo.  It's easy to see there's a soul in this cat as revealed through his eyes.

Our group (minus Juniper) hit two trails in the Coquitlam area, in the midst of mountains.  Streams of water floated down, cascading over rock with ferns and fungi all about.  It was quite heavenly, although a trifle grey and wet.

Balaram was off with Tilak, the part-terrier.  He loves the trails.  Who wouldn't?  Trails are for people, both the physical and spiritual.  Had I not the bhaktitrail to tread, I'm not sure where I would be today.

I'm concerned about the U.S. and the presidential policies which I will not delineate here.  I do see that the globe's leading nation is under duress and therefore it affects all of us.  Surely we must give the spiritual trail a try.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Burnaby, British Columbia

Walking Around In History

Mathura Lila, who is from the Philippines but has rooted herself in Burnaby for a long time, remarked, "You brought the sunshine," but I countered it with, "I believe it's the reverse.". In truth the Greater Vancouver area has encountered rain, rain and more rain. 

Taking advantage of the clearness of the day, I headed for what was once the Japanese Encampment.  Yes, the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan, even had Canada looking suspiciously at its Japanese citizens.  Because Britain declared war on Japan, English Canadians supported the same action.  But these encampments where people were practically held prisoner are no more. The place where one was established is now a community garden zone—a great walking place.

I came upon an empty lot where a school stood only ten years ago. It serviced the local rural area.  The area, however, is not rural as of late.  Burnaby, like many places in Canada, is bursting with condos. I'm lucky to have the freedom to be amidst gardens, fields and some empty lots.

At Meadow and 12th Avenue is where the school was located.  There I met Radhika, who recently moved from Alberta.  I led her to a nearby mini-park and a playground which has serviced the local families for decades.  We talked briefly.  I'm a swami. I hope I encouraged her somewhat in her spiritual life.  She had actually driven around looking for me.

May the Source be with you!
5 km