Friday, 29 March 2019

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Tottenham, Ontario

K is Boss, I am Das

The above phrase is something I expressed several times today, in a morning class, at an evening class—Tuesday sangha—and in the afternoon on a trail.

K refers to Krishna.  Dasin Sanskrit, means servant. Put it all together and you have words of truth.  "Krishna is boss and I am das."

Jay, Connor and I drove up to Tottenham to visit a family of farmers.  We drove north to offer some encouragement to Vishal and Yasomati who have started an agro/eco initiative involving gir and guernsey cows/bulls, and horses, as well. Together we sat down to discuss this spring's farmers conference which will be held in Quebec, just outside of Montreal, and is scheduled for Saturday May 18th, 2019.  We pulled ideas together with action plans.  It will be our third year doing a spring gathering.  It will be inspirational.

After our sit-down planning, we braved “The Great Trail,” (formerly called the "Trans Canada Trail") from Tottenham, north to the farm in Caledon.  I used the word "braved" because on the seven kilometre stretch which we trekked, where there were cedar trees, the sun was restricted, leaving lengthy ice patches.  Once we came to the areas of hardwoods, rays of warmth melted the snow.

The very good thing about taking to patches of ice is that it reminds us we are very vulnerable.  We are not in charge.  We are not the controller.  There are greater things than ourselves.  We are small—small but significant; that is when we admit to having a great boss and we are His servant.  We are Das. I am Das.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

We All Touched Air...

Tom, Billy, Connor and I took to the ravine. It did not come as a surprise to us, that we would be dealing with several-months-old snow that’s on its way out. I personally deliberated on the curious stages of snow, from the freshly fallen, to the layers that pack down, to periods of melting and then freezing.  Now in the final stages of a winter season's duration, it is soaking the trail, and some of it has merged into the creek, to be later precipitating,  and then falling as rain, hail or snow.  It is quite the cycle.

Tom and I were chatting about local history, economics, people, Krishna and Tom's favourite, Vishnu.  Walking behind us, Billy and Connor immersed themselves in The Secret, to the laws of attraction, and also the all-attractive One, Krishna.

On our decline into the ravine, we baby-stepped our way down, if not slid down, ‘rolling with the punches’ of nature's way as the sun shine down upon us, and even laughing at our cumbersome slipping.  A convenient side-rail was there for holding onto for dear life.  All in al, it was a real good stroll and slide.

Tom downed some Kombucha, once we left the ravine, at the Natural Health Food Store.  Billy delighted in spring water while I chanced some root beer with plenty of ginger in it, and much too much brown sugar.

It was all good because we all touched air, sun, wind, earth and water and their diverse manifestations.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

Brampton / Toronto

Walking / Presenting

This morning, I ventured along through the Yorkville district, and it was early—1:30 a.m.  Parties were just subsiding and the few stragglers, you might say, observed my monk apparel.  I mention this just as a comparison to the night before when I was in regular civies, civilian clothes.  There is a difference in people's response.  So for this morning, in posh Yorkville, I got this, “Are you with a party?” look.

For me, it's fun.   It makes walking that much more adventurous.

To Brampton I went, with Connor tagging happily along, by car, and at late morning.  I chose to speak at the ISKCON Centre from Chapter 5 Verse 2 of the Gita.  I liked these two lines: Jnana (or knowledge that one is not this material body but spirit soul) is not sufficient for liberation. One has to act in the status of spirit soul, otherwise there is no escape from material bondage."

Then back in Toronto, at ISKCON, I spoke from Chapter 6 about the nature of the mind.  Text 26 reads as follows: "From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self."

It was a receptive group, like in Brampton. We also incorporated some yoga stretches in the presentation, compliments of Dan, who's a yoga teacher in the Orangeville area.  His friend, Jason, runs a yoga studio along with his wife and he asked me how I deal with insomnia, since I mentioned it.

"I walk and chant," I mentioned, and that is how I'm currently dealing with jet lag.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

Back In Regulated Fashion

Bloor Street, west of University Avenue, is what it always has been for decades, and coming back, after a month's stay in India, let's me see that it has persisted.  For all but the iconic Honest Ed's economy market—which has been razed and will be replaced by a towering condo unit—the coffee shops, book stores, exotic artifact joints and Korean town and their two or three story buildings will be here to stay. I hope.

It's a charmer of a street to walk at any time of the day or night.  With jet lag, I don't really mind what time.  There are always people around.  I was thrilled to see in the front window of the Doug Miller book store, Swami In A Strange Land by Joshua Green. If you haven't read this book yet, your life is not complete.  It details the life, boldness and complications of Prabhupada.  I'm partial as he is my guru.

The wind showed its might and gave me a toss at the corner of Spadina; well, at least a push.  Remnants of light garbage swirled in the air, now that their winter anchor, snow, is practically gone.  At one point, even a green compost bin was made to slide across the street.

I admit to having grey and brown apparel on, not my routine monk's attire, but I maintained an assertive tilak mark on that forehead which was slightly bent over to address Mr. Vayu, the wind.  He, the wind, will relax in time, and take his rest, as I will attempt to do so for a few minutes before the mangal arati at 4:30 a.m.

It's good to be back in a regulated fashion, walking on my legs while rolling beads on my fingers through mantras.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Delhi / Copenhagen / Toronto

Long Trip

I'm all for direct flights—India to Canada—and that was our (Connor and myself) intent.  You've heard the saying, "Man proposes. God disposes." There is this problem with the Pakistani airways, and so our flight, like many, had to divert and land in Copenhagen to refuel.

I've learned that if you accidentally chance upon a bear on the trail, you may stand your ground or walk around.  With politically hot issues involving citizens in the air, fly around and away from the troubled zone.  Don't confront.

This detour made a six hour difference, but it made little impact on Connor and I.  Another hour is another hour.  I do feel sorry for those with babies.  They don't have the same patience.

Overall, the trip to India was great—as usual. You just have to overcome the chaos, and always be psychologically prepared.  Our last three days in Vrndavana were somewhat restricted for walking, unless you want to get plastered by Holi enthusiasts.

There were, however, two occasions, one in Radha Kunda and another outside our host's gate, where men refrained from throwing any colours, permanent or impermanent, on my clothes.  People respect their swamis, and even though I'm a foreigner and white with a tinge of sun-tan, the reverence still goes on.

I'm impressed with India's premiere airports, especially in Delhi and Mumbai.  They are so state-of-the-art.  They put many airports of developing countries to shame.  If only the rest of India could be like those airport facilities, it would be pleasant—incredible even.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Vrndavan, India

Moon Full and Beautiful

It is the full moon.  On this day every year, by lunar movement, we celebrate the birth of the most outstanding mobile monk, Sri Chaitanya.  He was born 533 years ago in Bengal and made a point after his ordainment into the renounced order, to travel and inspire people into the kirtan culture.

This morning, the temple of Krsna Balaram was just dense with people, and reports tell us that at Chaitanya’s birthplace the temples were similarly packed with people chanting.  This is also the time of Holi, when colours occupy space. Indeed the air is pervasive with the stuff.  It's like a big party.  There is a level of drunkenness, and some folks get so rowdy and eager to throw the colours that they purchased, it gets a little bit out of control.  Our temple keeps the doors locked at certain hours. You have to decide whether to stay in or out, for some time.

I chose to stay out, along with Connor, and get some things done.  I have my new saffron monk duds and Connor is trying to go for the first head-shave of his life.  Members of our troupe are attempting to get together for last hugs and prostrations.

A fast goes on until moon-rise and we honour that with a closure feast.  ‘Fast’ and ‘feast’ sound similar.  Although diametrically opposed, they do complement each other.

Chaitanya is a very important figure in the lives of those who have taken to kirtan chanting.  We owe Him a tremendous amount for landing upon us the sound of sacredness. 

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Vrindavan, India

Spiritual Foundation

I stepped into the Krsna Balaram temple and was asked to lead a kirtan.  I took great pleasure in doing so.  After that kirtan for honouring the guru, a person came up to me—a familiar face.  It was a British monk whom I travelled with in Ireland, when I trekked the country from Belfast in the north, to Cork in the south.  It was good to see him again.

Knowing that I just completed a production with a group of actors, he told me of a role he volunteered to play.  It was anger personified.

"I had a hard time though, to be angry.  I couldn't come to the level required.  The only thing that ever gets my ire up is when I'm claustrophobic.  I was at the outdoor event where the drama was showing.  I went to the loo to deal with a call of nature, and someone locked me in from the outside.  I got desperate.  No one could hear me, so I rocked the unit back and forth, and finally I kicked open the door.  I was really angry.  Well, I got out and my fellow actors said, 'Use it!  Use your anger for the play.'  So I did and it worked."

Our guru, Prabhupada, used to say, "Utility is the principle!"

I was also asked to give the class from the Bhagavatam, Canto 8.  I saw the opportunity to speak of the little bit I know of the male and female psychology.  It was surrounding the story of Aditi and the sage, Kasyapa—wife and husband.  

To conclude: relationships have a better chance to be successful when there is a spiritual foundation.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Radha Kunda, India

Walking As A Worship

Last evening a group of us (some of our actors), two Floridian devotees, and two additional monks from Canada, decided early next morning (today) to do the walk around Govardhan Hill.  Included in our group also was Daniel from Ukraine.  He showed up at our rendezvous spot at MVT Restaurant after being showered by green tones of Holi powder.  A dish of salad was placed on his head.  Wow!  A piece of modern art?

After a thirty-five minute rickshaw drive, we began the brisk bare-foot walk so popular in this northern section of India. Our target was to reach a twenty-one kilometre goal.  5:30 a.m. was not a bad time to start.  Like many of the marathon walks I've done, you must begin before the sun bakes you.

The soft sands were soothing.  The sharp-edged stones were a challenge.  All in all, it was an austerity that we all relished just as much as residents of India do.  Indeed, it is a program for all.  I was taken by the many young males, in particular, who participate. There is nothing to indicate that parikrama, pilgrimage, especially at Holi time, will die out anytime soon in Govardha.

Vendors attempted to sell their wares, mostly bananas and roasted chana, by saying, "Monkey seva! meaning: "Service to the monkeys!"  

One sugar-cane merchant saw us coming. "Juus," he said.

"No, we are not Jews.  We are Vaishnavas!"  I retorted.

Near the Hill itself, one motorcyclist left his machine unattended, and several monkeys took full advantage by slowly dismantling the fellow's conveyance.  

The Hill and Radha Kunda's sacred waters were highlights, although every time I come to the Kund, a greedy pundit appears trying to milk pilgrims of several rupees for puja worship.

May the Source be with you!
21 km

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Vrndavana, India

Ten Of Us

Ten of us drove down the smooth Yamuna Expressway to Vrndavan.   Vrndavan is special.  It is meant to be home.  Yet there's one thing that strikes my mind when I come here:  "I wish I could clean it up."

What is it about this place that could use a make-over?  Despite it being Krishna's place, there is a complacency about tidiness.  If we really love Krishna then we will see to it as being like a temple.  There are gorgeous destinations, however, like the grounds of the Krishna Balarama Temple, the residential area of Mayapur Vrndavan Trust, the ISKCON Goshala—where samadhi tombs of friends passed-on are located, such as Purnachandra, Yamuna, Brahmananda, Gunagrahi—and the house where Connor and I are staying.  The home of Shyam Gopal is on the outskirts of hustle and bustle.  Great landscaping!

I also got to meet the first Dutch-disciple of our Guru, Prabhupada.  We lunched with him.  He joined in 1970 and became a good gardener himself.  In fact he maintains the grounds really well.

It is Holi time and I see ‘Holied’ people covered in colour.  There was also a Holi-cow or two.  No one is spared of the powdered stuff, but somehow Connor and I got through the streets of Loi Bazaar  clean, when we went to put in an order with a cloth merchant, Haridas, at Yamuna Store. It is through this venue that I secured my monk robes for the year—cotton material with three pieces per set.

My highlight or colourful spot of the day was prayers offered to my friends now gone, who are actually here.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

Noida, India

Could Not Have Been

There could not have been a more appreciative audience.  We staged, "The Queen's Secret" in the evening, to a paid audience. Yesterday's was sponsored.  The big temptation, for anyone in the 21st century, is the usage of cell phones, but the crowd remained obedient to our rules during the performance.  “No click! No video!  No flash!”

It was after the credits, the curtain call, that the crowd was aroused for taking pictures.  Good God, it wouldn't stop.  Our cast was made to feel like real celebs! In truth, I consider our group of twenty-five to be like family rather than stars of the stage.  With this being our last performance in India, our group/troupe came to like each other, despite diverse personalities and ages—I'm the oldest.

"The Queen's Secret" was our little project together.  We shaped and molded it to become the feast of words, movement and colour that it came to be.  We learned patience from the practices.  We learned, through the method of acting, how to become someone else.  For myself, it was being the coach all along, and entering into every character of the play.  It was fun.

Admittedly so, I feel more like I'm the Drama Maharaja as opposed to The Walking Monk.  Now that this month's theatre assignment is over, I can shift gears more to the walking side.  Yes, that is a passion I also need to honour—just getting back to an obligation.  That would be a joy, a pleasure.

I lay down to sleep, to anticipate the pilgrimage to Vrndavana and for the morning hours to play out.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Noida, India

My Only Walking

My only walking today consisted of the circumambulation of the Krishna deities of Radha Govinda.  If you do that too much at a certain speed, it could make you dizzy. I took breaks during this early time before full sunrise.  My host, or rather our host, is a monk from Maharastra, Lokanatha Swami.

He kindly arranged for a chair for me next to his, and in front of his chair was his laptop.  He sat me down and showed me what he does each day, during this time, at the computer.  Morning time may be good for pacing and getting the exercise in.  It is also ideal for chanting japa.  On his screen, he showed me all the people around the world who log into the japa chanting session.

"Here is someone from Mauritius, someone from New Jersey and look, you have a Deepakshi from Toronto."

"Interesting!"  I said to the Maharaja, indicating that technology has its advantages.  Certainly devices have a consuming effect on people. I don't have to ask our crew members of the drama about their time being occupied in some cyber way.

A matinee performance was attended by Lokanatha Swami, along with students from various schools, their teachers and members of the media.  Also, my evening was again pleasantly teamed up with the Swami at a newly-opened centre for bhakti in Greater Noida.  I was driven to the site, and as I opened the door, a shower of flower petals came quite consistently down upon me all the way to the entrance of the building.  The community was enthusiastic and they seemed to soak in my message from the Gita

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Kolkata / Delhi

Run for Fun

The tiny portion of walking turned into a sprint at the Delhi Airport, when Keesh and I took to a competitive move down the runways and to the exit. Frivolity struck despite my sixty-six-year-old body, which took up the challenge of his thirty-two-year-old machine. I really didn't care much for what other passengers thought of a monk in apparent playfulness. Most of those people on the Air India flight were Bengalis or folks from the Delhi area, and I'm sure they've seen their share of holy men doing out-of-the-box feats.

Anyway, I was doing my ‘feets’ and having a good time with them after a lengthy enough drive from Mayapura, then a flight from Kolkata.  For certain, the biggest austerity of the day was dealing with Delhi traffic, then entering into Noida.

At the Kolkata Airport, our theatre troupe and I met with Giridhari Swami, an American monk who is mild mannered and hails from South Bend, Indiana.

"Maharaja," I addressed him, "I walked through your town in 2016, and even trekked through the grounds of Notre Dame Campus. Very impressive!"

To greet us at the Noida Temple was Padayatra champion, Lokanatha Swami. He is by far the most renowned monk for pilgrimage strategy. He and I share a service in advancing the walking culture. His favourite spot is India for pilgrimage, my location is everywhere. That doesn't make me the better man, no!  Not at all! 

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Mayapura, India

Within Walking Distance We Talked

Within walking distance of Mayapura is the village of Sarasvat Gang, which is situated along the Jalangi River.  There my roommates, of Suite 505 of the Gada Building, and I were invited for lunch at Madan Gopal's.  Madan had asked several days ago, "What do you want on the menu?" That was gracious.

So, being in Bengal, I had requested neither their sweet delicacies, nor even rice, which is status quo for Bengalis, but some sakor bhaji, mixed cooked greens.  The chapatis were perfectly round, and as fordahl, the lentil soup, it was divine with it's mung base.  The only sweet permissible to my liking is some liquid—nimbhu pani,or lemon water with soda.

"Excellent, Madan, you killed us with your kindness."

It was so interesting, after the meal,  to delve into a topic on something which was already visited by a Russian, Dimitri, earlier today.  The topic was a discussion on envy/jealousy.  First of all, as far as I am concerned, they are synonyms.

"So what about this subject and what can I personally do with this issue?" was the question raised by one of the meal takers.

In brief, I offered a few points:  

Envy is the seed that brought us to this world of duality.  It is a recognition of opulence perceived in someone which is lacking in us.  It distances us from each other.  To overcome this we must attempt to close the gap through service—getting close.  You will realize that you created a monster out of you when there was no need. The object of envy is just human, like you or me.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Mayapura, India

Good Lesson

I was poised to start the chanting as lead singer for the temple's mangal arati, when a young man came to the mic in front of me.  Some miscommunication I suppose.  I had been asked on the previous day to sing.  It was a good lesson in humility for me. The young man said to me, "It's my birthday today."

"How many years?" I asked, and he answered it was his twenty-fifth year on the planet.

Behind me was the voice of a peer.  "He should let you lead," implying I'm his senior and that would be proper etiquette.  

"But no," I thought, "he's of the next generation.  We must give him the chance to be a future leader."

I was, however, clearly lined-up to deliver the Bhagavatamclass on Canto 9 regarding the avatar, Parasuram.  Without being disrespectful, he was 'born to be wild' and I had that seat, the vyasasan, to tell all I could about this extraordinary person.  Throughout the day I was complimented by listeners, so I suppose I rendered some service of help to others.

It was our last night's performance for, "The Queen's Secret," and I would say it was the best take on it yet. You can always tell by the audience reciprocation.  That is certainly a gauge.

Although I was slightly upstaged in the morning, I feel I was sufficiently staged for the day.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Mayapura, India

I Do At Times

I do at times make use of the elevator on my way to the meetings.  I don't want to be late.  To join me on the lift was a delivery man with a bag full of coconuts and a pail of sugar cane juice.  We reached the elevated state of the fourth floor.  I'm glad he delivered even though it was our last day of meetings.  My preference is the bael juice that is also an option.  Bael cools down the bodily temperature, which is great because it's getting mighty hot these days.  It's the bael fruit that Krishna and his friends used to throw about as a ball.

It was a part-voting / part-presentation day. Actually nice!  Included in the day was a report on Child Protection, which is always good to get an update on.  I pardoned myself for the final session of the day.  It was time to go for the second-last performance of "The Queen's Secret."  There is some great promotional material out there, perhaps on YouTube.  I don't know.  I don't follow that.  Not much time.

We filled up the auditorium once again and pleased the crowd.  Cast members for the most part are still  recovering from fever and flu.  I'm proud of them.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Mayapura, India

Some Good Stuff

A great wave of humidity seemed to land in Bengal, which not everyone can tolerate.  Our cast of performers got affected, some stricken with fever.  It meant we had to cancel the show tonight. You might call it a ‘break-out’.

In the meantime, there are some break-throughs for our Krishna society. Prime Minister Mody recently unveiled the largest scriptural text in the world—The Bhagavad-gita.  Installed in the location of where the Gita's message was delivered, in Kuruksetra, northern India, it becomes a major landmark for the Vaishnava culture.  Then closer to home base, an apology was read out to our leaders concerning an event in 2016 when there was somewhat of a physical attack on one of our Governing Body Commissioners, Madhu Sevita, this year's chairman.  It was a gesture of goodwill and it cleared the air.  It's always positive to take a humble position.,6860/

According to Bhakti Caru Swami—a monk who has been residing in Mayapura for forty-three years—concerning the administrative team at the ISKCON headquarters, a new wave of a younger generation is taking hold of administration tasks.  This is a hopeful sign.

We are a young society.  It takes some time for things to settle when dust is shot in the air.  As a culture which is steeped in bhakti (devotion), we should be ready to learn tolerance and turn it into triumphant.

May the Source be with you!
5 km