Saturday 31 August 2019

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Moncton, New Brunswick


A fourteen year old asked her dad, "Who are those guys in beige from head to toe?"  

And the dad answered the best he could.  "It looks like they're going through some Shakespearean script.  Intense monks or something!" (at Killarney Lake).

I was having a peaceful conversation with Etienne and daughter, Kunti—more of a pep talk about devotional service in a park—when a bunch of young boys and a girl stormed in with wheeled devices.  "Loud" would be an understatement to describe their behaviour.

"Take care, guys!" I said, as we moved on to a more quiet zone.

"Yeah!" yelled one of the boys.

"Have a good time getting ready for school!"

"That will never be," said the most boisterous one.  (in Moncton)

During a rainfall, Samuel and I were walking when a voice caught our attention, "Hello!" So we stopped.  A woman bearing an umbrella asked, "What do you believe?"  

We answered. 

"Where does Jesus fit into all of this?"

"He fits!" I said.

"Is he the only begotten son?"

"If God is our heavenly father then He has all of us as His children—many sons, and daughters too!"

"Hmmm! I'd like to know more.”  So, we obliged her with an invitation card for the weekly Sunday sangha.  (street in Fredericton)

For indoor interaction today, the boys and I made it to Mastika Boutik for a presentation with yogis in their Zen Room.  We chanted.  It was blissful. (Dieppe/Moncton)

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Bridges of Consciousness

I believe most walkers love walking over bridges, especially if there's a wooden flooring which has a little bit of a spring to it.  Once a railway bridge, the Bill Thorpe Bridge crosses over the Saint John River, and is the length of five hundred and eighty-one metres, with a serious iron framing on each side.

A repair man on the bridge asked if we were monks, and we naturally said, "Yes." He was curious.  There were other repair crewmen ready to embark on a four-month workover of the bridge.  Its sides and deck will be redone.  Maintenance is the jurisdiction of Vishnu, God as the preservation deity.  The four of us monks were chanting Krishna's name while ambling along on this iconic bridge, and we are confident that divine aspect of Krishna, in the form of Vishnu, was pleased.

In the afternoon, I craved for health and peace of mind, so with some time on our hands we ventured over to Lake Killarney for a last chance at a dip, as the weather was predicted to turn wet.  The swim was brief.  The calls I make can be lengthy sometimes.  I'm lucky that I can get on with administration duties in such a gorgeous setting, by the beach and under a shady apple tree.  I was talking to Garuda, which is the name of the bird carrier of Vishnu.  He opened the call with a "I offer my peak at your feet (laughter).”

At 7:00 p.m., we had a healthy turnout of people for a Sangha at the Norfolk Motel.  Lots of food. Plenty of chants.  Discussions were centred around the guru, Prabhupada. "He came from Calcutta  and is making his mark to change the world..."

I implied that he was building many bridges of Consciousness.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Sussex, New Brunswick

Back In Time

I had proposed to my three companion monks that we visit King's Landing, one of those historic pioneer villages where you step back in time, and see how folks of a European extract lived in the New World.  It wasn't such a hard sell.  "It will be educational, a cultural experience and in a spiritual context, we'll see people in period costume living the more simple life with organic food to depend on and a lifestyle of interdependence—all much like what Prabhupada, our guru, wanted for us."  Such was my pitch.  We moved back to about 1820, the time of the Loyalist migration.

King's Landing is a place I ventured to about twelve years ago with Burlington family, Jagannath and Saci, and is a mere twenty-five minutes from Fredericton.  We loved it.  And from this morning to early afternoon, our team of monks also relished it, and if there had been any apprehension about my proposal, it was clearly removed.  The boys didn't want to leave.  We covered a quarter of the place but reaped the benefit of becoming Grade Ones in the one-room school with our widowed teacher, and spending quality time with the clerk at the General Store, as well as watching Mrs. Valentine prepare her dish of squash.  She blessed us with giving us our choice of veg, a pick-your-own from the garden.  So we secured a whopper of a zucchini.

Another dip in Lake Killarney was a plus to our health regimen.  "It's the first time I swam in years," said Samuel. That was hard to believe.

Our evening output was a presentation in Sussex at a dance studio.  In the mix of this presentation, I suggested we learn a Sanskrit verse, 2.14 from the GIta, so we did, but the dance to our kirtanreigned supreme.

I must also mention that the Blacksmith at King's Landing was a charmer.  It reminded me of the adage, "Strike while the iron's hot!” meaning don't lose an opportunity.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Monday, August 26th, 2019

Fredericton, New Brunswick


To me it was just a perfect morning around ten degrees Celsius.  No jacket required or chaudar (the Indian version), but for Samuel, who is slender, Marshall, too, and come to think of it, Nicholas, as well, bundling up was necessary.  Once we all ventured into a good clip walking the trails near the St. John River, over the well-known walking bridge, and into town, we all felt we could do without the extra hides.

Goodness, people are friendly.  It must be because everything is smaller and doable.  With a population of less than 60,000, it stands to reason that life in Fredericton is reminiscent of a more laid-back community, but not lazy.  Folks here also take advantage of the trails, including the one that circles around Lake Killarney.

Nicholas and I took to the lake's waters.  Next to walking, swimming is most compatible.  The last water I swam in was the Pacific, and it was nice, but I always favour the fresh water over the salty stuff.  Basically it's all good.  It's the motto I like to live by.  Count what you have, and not what is out of reach and out of reality.

At the lake's edge I came upon a Sikh family, or let's say a man, his wife and a young acquaintance, a student fresh from the Punjab.  The boy was brought by his relatives.  You could see he was shy and very new and having to deal, somewhat, with culture shock and being away from home for the first time, like so many Indian students in Canada.  I tried my best to make the turbaned boy feel at home and to join our local group of chanters if so inclined.  My message for him was, "God is with you!"

May the Source be with you!
8 km

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Moncton / Fredericton / Saint John

All Over

Covering a two day blitz of bhakti was a fun type of back-and-forth shuttle between three cities. And below are the highlights.

First, our small troupe of monks drove to a region outside of Moncton (perhaps one day we could change the spelling to Monktown) and there, just off of a panoramic ridge on Indian Mountain Road, was our destination for five hours of devotion. The setting, a rustic barn transformed into a place of living accommodation, and craft and yogic functions, was the place for kirtan, food, talks, dances, and also a fire ceremony for Camille, a young teen from Quebec, to take her diksha, initiation.

Camille has been inspired all along, since birth, by her father Etienne, to pursue devotion.  Her new name is Kunti Devi.

I was surprised to see Prabhapati, my godbrother, an artist who painted excellent renderings for the book extraordinaire, the Bhagavatam. Good company!

Our two day adventure also entailed a sangha, or gathering, at Kadambha's place.  He now calls his home the "Krishna Centre Fredericton."  It's a new venture for him in the wild setting of New Brunswick, an under-rated part of the world, in my opinion.  People came, several families, and bachelors.  We contemplated a verse from the Gitawherein Krishna, the ultimate mystic, declares Himself as aja, unborn.  We spoke about that.

We also spent time at Lake Killarney where a band of Bhutanese folks came to introduce themselves as very committed members of the Vaishnava tradition, which is ours.  I was assisting Nicholas with his memorization of his lines for our next play, when a swarm of these happy people came to our spot of grass.  Finally, a drive to Saint John was scheduled for a kirtan at the Wellness Centre across from the St. Joseph Hospital. T'was cool!

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Moncton, New Brunswick

Offering to Guru (Prabhupada)

It was evening ārati time,
Which began at a clock’s precise chime
And from that gorgeous shrine
Was projected—softly—your voice divine.
From the modest speaker box it came,
A sound that only purity can claim.
It was the subject of ten avatars
Some who declare peace while others—wars.
No vibration could dare to match
Your depth and power, the ear to catch
The pastimes of courageous heroes
And saints of softer mellows.
The harmonium you play hums through the song
Causing the listener to crave and long.
These stories that you brought us
These songs that you taught us
Where relationships are foremost
Leave prema as our anchor post.
Each stanza that you had sung
Resonates like a bell well rung.
Your message is of surrender to Him
Done through mantra and hymn
Passing through the gate we call “servant”
Which means one who’s never a deviant.
Moved by the way you sing the tune
Emotions are stirred, peaked like high noon.
I wish the whole world could hear it too
Because it is happiness we all wish to pursue
I must hear it again and yet again
When the pūjārī presses “play” and then . . .
Jaya Jagadisha Hare
Jaya Jagadisha Hare
Jaya Jagadisha Hare.
                                                      © Bhaktimarga Swami

Today is Guru's Birthday.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Saint John, New Brunswick

Day of Fast, We Did Last

Our drive to New Brunswick, a very scenic experience, allowed for a feast for the eyes. To some degree the word ‘feast’ became significant to Samuel, Marshall, Nicholas and myself.  At the stroke of midnight, we will break our full day fast on this auspicious day of Krishna's birthday.  It is not that food is on the mind, necessarily, though hunger pangs do rise. It's a dose of determination that makes for success in this realm of resistance.

As the day rolled out, the four of us scored well, despite the fact that once we arrived in St. John, we were committed to conducting a program at a community centre, to honour Krishna's birthday.  Approximately one hundred people came to hear and view our devotional presentation, and on top of that, all the attendees were blessed with an outstanding feast.  Still the fast was on for the four of us.  12 midnight was our magic time.

The resistance I spoke about is an obliged form of discipline.  Keeping ourselves busy, or engaged, is the formula for honouring a fast.  In my travels, whether on foot or by conveyance, we always look for signs of the spirit or some manifestation of God.  While on our travels today a pleasant reminder of what's divine came our way.  For instance at one point there was construction going on the road, which meant we were at a clear stop for some time.  Right in front of us, in queue, was a truck, a RAM.  It was staring us in the face for some minutes.  For some reason or another that brand of truck kept appearing. (RAM is a sacred sound in our Vedic context.)  A lay person may not see it as such, but for those familiar with Sanskrit it is.  I want to thank Nakula, Sara, and Kadamba and his family for being good sports of the spirit.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Montreal, Quebec

“Let’s Get Sattvic!”

A six hour bus ride on Megabus brought Nicolas and I (and seventy-nine other passengers) to downtown Montreal.  I mentioned to him that we could relax and let the bus empty out before we exit. "We don't need to be part of the stampede," I suggested.

The woman sitting in front of us was of the same spirit.  She also waited, and hearing a piece of our conversation said, "I work for an airlines as a flight attendant and I can tell you this, because I'm not in uniform, the biggest agitation is when the plane hasn't parked yet and all the passengers, in a frenzy, get up and start moving."

It was kind of nice to hear things from her perspective.  Anyone can appreciate the mayhem that this kind of thing creates. Anyway, we made a rapid friend.

With no real chance to walk today, I surrendered to services in demand at ISKCON Montreal.  I spoke with two leaders and to some young new members (monks are joining), and then proceeded to give class.  It's the eve of Krishna's birthday and I chose to read and comment on the coming of Krishna and the reason for His descent to the world.

Krishna came because there was trouble in the world.  "Unruly kings" was the term given for dictators agitating and disturbing the planet Earth.  Surely it was bad, as it is now.  There ischaos now and to some degree there always will be.  A change of consciousness, a mentality of patience, can truly help.  If I can use the phrase: "Let's get sattvic!"

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Toronto, Ontario


After a four and a half hour flight from Vancouver, I landed back home.  Before my next trip via bus to Montreal tomorrow I had a space in the evening to stroll.  Jaya had rounds to do—meaning his prescribed number of mantras for the day,—and so he was a natural candidate for a walking companion.  I chose Rosedale.

You could feel that change of season in the air—that late summer feeling.  Crickets, obvious by their presence of sound, are in every direction.  The breezes blowing are so awesome.  In truth it is perfect for a walk.  It just couldn't be better.  I'm noticing how others feel the same way.  In one segment of Yonge Street, it is all about cafe culture, people sitting while sipping.

Here Jaya and I are walking and chanting and enjoying the soft roll of the tongue as it's shaping the formation of ultimate sound, Hare Krisha Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Now with our stroll and tongue roll completed at 10:30 p.m., I still had stuff to do. I suggested to Jaya to rest up for the night.  For tomorrow's trip I have to dig up a book I tucked away which I now need.  It is a book entitled, Thirteen Plays of Bhasa, and I need to secure it for one particular drama, "The Embassy." Nicholas will be traveling with me and will be playing a lead role in it.  I require that book for the script.

So I went through the temple archives and sure enough, in the most obscure corner, in a box, was the book by Bhasa!

Set to go!

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

White Rock, British Columbia

Park and Beach

When I became a monk in April of '73 in Toronto, I met Jagadish.  He was in charge of the ashram, and was like a big brother.  I was 20. He was 26.  Well, he's still around, and fast-forward, he just turned 72 this month.  I had the pleasure to do a few walking rounds with him in Central Park, with towering conifers all around.  I guess you can say we were just catching up on news about the world, his life, my life. He's been looking after his handicapped son.

It was a great hour and a half walk with Jagadish.  My spiritual big brother.

In White Rock, at the beach, a group of us devotees meandered our way through rock and sand, dodging residual pools from the high tide.  We set ourselves up with tarpaulins to lie on, to keep dry, and just as I finished teaching the gayatri mantra, Angelica spotted me.

"Aren't you the traveling...?"

"Monk. Walking Monk."

"I met you about three summers ago at a farm in Surrey," she recalled, "and it was one of the first farms then that the city built itself around."

"Of course, I remember the good work of that heritage place."

"Are you open for questions?" she asked, assuming that it's a monks obligation. And so the questions about life flowed and so did my answer ( or so I think they did) followed by a bonding time in the ocean's water.  I felt blessed today.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Burnaby, British Columbia

Look At the Good

I took a trek (a mild one) through the Riverside Neighbourhood with Prem. Harvest time is truly showing itself in this section of town.  There's that rich black soil bearing lots of veggies and fruits.  A great place to stroll through.

Some six hours later, Hadai brought me to the Fraser River for another installment. These shorter walks, executed periodically, make for a healthful experience in the day.  In our discussion together, we agreed that life need not be glum. We must extract all that's good out of the day—pull out the essence like a bee would do.  We also were congruous on the point of seeing the good in all and not dwelling on negative traits.  By the way the Krishna kabobs, he and partner, Mahatma, made were divine.

This is something emphasized in the talk I gave for Gordon's initiation in the evening. If you want to develop saintliness on some significant level then we must observe the positive in everyone. Acknowledge someone's worth, point it out and generate an atmosphere of good reciprocation, an atmosphere of hope, good will and encouragement.

Ananda Vrindavan is from the Phillipines, and it was a long desire of hers to have the second initiation, brahminical initiation.  She sat by the fire, next to Gordon, to take her next step in progressive thinking and being.  We can refer to Chapter 18,Verse 42 from the Bhagavad-gita for good human qualities to cultivate.

The ceremony went well, conducted by priest, Jaya Govinda.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Vancouver, British Columbia

Bliss in Vancouver

So the procession portion of the Chariot Fest was over, went a bit overtime by usual standards (maybe a half hour) but it was good.  Strong kirtanhappened all the way along.  I'm the one assigned to pick and chose the lead singers. I gave the mic to the boys band, "The Mayapuris," and they just kept with it, to its sweet end—at Stanley Park.

I made my way to my designated spot, the "Q and A" booth.  Once I took my seat there, I didn't leave.  People had queries about life, about karmadharma, soul mates, God, the universe and how we may all be connected to each other in some way.

It was quite exciting because the questions were lodged by thoughtful people.  There were always a dozen or so in number, and that figure more or less remained constant.  The average wave remained for ten or fifteen minutes, and then moved on to be replaced by a new group.  It was a bit like the ocean waves right near us—the Pacific, the biggest and the deepest.

It was nearing 6:00 p.m., time to un-stiffen.  I made my way back to the Mayapuris who entertained for a good stretch. The place was rocking, on and off the stage.  Happy dancers.  Happy chanters.  I joined the group on stage.  I'm just an older soul up there with these younglings, but we all exuded this spritely energy, nevertheless.  All in the service of Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Saturday 24 August 2019

Saturday, August 17th , 2019

Vancouver, British Columbia

Sunset Speaks

There are lovers sitting on park benches and families, too—people of all sorts and kinds speaking in multiple languages, Spanish, Russian, French and maybe English.  They are enjoying Stanley Park at the water's edge of English Bay.  Several of them are casually picking wild blackberries as they walk by, not initially intending to,  but upon looking, some say, "Oh!  Let me try these out."  Usually it's not just one but two, or three.  You pluck one and let it dive in your mouth.  They are soft and melt down quickly before sliding down the tube.

I arrived at the park just in time to catch a few bars of the maha mantra sung by the popular "Mayapuris" music group.  They really stirred up the crowd.  Good boys.  All three, Bali, Keesh and Vish, are young husbands and fathers.  Bali will announce shortly his first child is on the way.

"Family life is good," I tell them.  "It means bending for your partner and kids.  You have to work hard at holding it together."  The message was appreciated.

I also met Bala from Mumbai.  He's in town on business.  He's also a father and husband.  He speaks proudly of his daughter, who's old enough now to understand the difference between the good and bad company one may keep.

Bala and I walked along the wall at Stanley Park, noting nature and the people.  We caught a glimpse of the sunset which is always trying to say something to us about time ticking away.  Both the rising and setting of the sun is saying: "Enjoy me, but I'm the red flag saying, 'You're gonna die.'"

May the Source be with you!
4 km