Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Crying For Him
Mayapura, India

This gem in the form of a small pocked-size book came my way by the author.

Kancana-Valli, the author, was born in Newcastle, England and became a devotee of Krishna at age 20.  In order to create this book, she apparently adopted the profession of a bumblebee- “collecting nectar from the divine flowers adorning Vaishnava literature”.

Kindly, she gave me a copy of this new release and I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing some contents, worthy stuff for thought.  By the way, the book is called, “Crying for Krishna”.

Awaken within me the ability to concentrate.

Within attention are the seeds of love.

Help me to become fascinated by how you appear in sound.

Remind me that I will get out of my spiritual practices what I put into them.

Consider me Your servant, patient, property and instrument.

Enable me to tolerate my weaknesses and shame and not run away from them.

Let me live and die, in full consciousness of the glory of Your love.

Thank you, Kancana, for this treasure.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Monday, February 24th, 2014

To and From the Clinic
Mayapura, India
Just one kilometre from my accommodation at Mayapura is the Bhaktivedanta Hospital and Clinic.  It’s basically a new facility.  Keshava, our very own Canadian rep living in the community is much loved and appreciated for bringing in a dental department to the facility.
I took advantage of the opportunity for a check-up.
As I had known there is a gum recession, just like I’m aware of cartilage wear-down at the knees.  Such is the reality of the body, it starts to slowly deteriorate from aging while concurrently our devotional spirit should be rising.
I hope that’s the case for me.  I have to wonder sometimes.
After the clinic visit I contemplated my internal situation.  Heat and traffic is something I’m becoming perhaps less tolerant towards – a sign of aging?  Appreciating life in the bhakti lane is maybe on the rise.  I really enjoy the moments with peers.  In my more youthful times here in the dhama, I felt more competitive.  There was the inclination to feel “I’m a better student” or “a better singer or cook” or “I’m more surrendered”.
With experience comes truth.  Time invokes wisdom unless you block the opportunity.  That’s why it can be well appreciated that if you keep life clean, free from substances that inhibit clear thinking it lessen chances for self-realization.  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, encouraged the restrictions, “No intoxication, no gambling, no meat-eating and no illicit sex”.
As he told, so he did.  In his last days his thoughts were clear and sharp, focused on the Absolute.
While taking steps back from the clinic I was compelled to think on the terms that I would like to be clear in mind, as he was.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Mayapura, India

The Finnish To Begin

Today was the final day for a glorious ingenious program, it’s the second time around for the ISKCON Leaders Sanga.

Sanga means association or gathering of saintly persons.  What our leaders just went through was a harmonious infusion of the Spirit. This involved seminars and workshops on seminars along the line of Devotee Care, Empathic Listening, Strengthening family life, etc.  Practical items were the bulk of the stuff.

It got me thinking, “How can I put together a seminar on walking?” and expressing and informing about its benefits on all levels.

I was honoured to lead the chant at the beginning of the final gathering.

Our group was informed by convenors, Gopala Bhatta, of something quite helpful presented in motivational terms— “The 8 Steps to Create Change”.

1.       Understand and/or create the elements of urgency (the example given here is of how our guru, Srila Prabhupada, used to say that the entire world is suffering).
2.       Collaborate to establish performance and accountability.
3.       Reflect on overall vision and strategy.
4.       Refresh our understanding and commitment to the change vision.
5.       Obtain total “buy-in” from all stakeholders.
6.       Generate short-term success.
7.       Consolidate gains and produce more success.
8.       Anchor the new energy.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

 Mayapura, India

Places of Real Sound

In the mornings, there is a mist that people walk through on their way to the temples.  As early as 4 AM you have pilgrims in stride moving to one of three outlets for chanting—at the samadhi of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, the kutir, or meditative hut, where he first resided in the early seventies when there was only an open plot of land, and finally, the main mandir, or temple, which accommodates thousands.

It is definitely a busy beehive at predawn.  Now, being Saturday, pilgrims pour into the Mayapura area from the city of Kolkata and other surrounding areas.  Busses of people park in the wide expanse of future development areas, buses with screeching horns of prolonged sounds.  Once you step out of the ISKCON compound, you are sure to be in the throes of passion with traffic and noise.

While in the haven of the dhama (sacred place), the atmosphere becomes more relaxed, but not without excitement.  By 5 PM there is a hati (elephant) procession on the grounds.  Drummers, cymbals, turbaned players, priests, and of course, the large mammals themselves, decorated with draped cloth and coloured pigments, circle the area of thruway, transforming it into much more than Disney could offer.

Teachers of the bhakti school say that wherever there is reverential love, that is the spiritual realm.  And that holds true, they say, especially where the ether is surcharged with sound, mantra, from another world.

When the sun meets the Ganges in Mayapura, only a few metres away from my accommodation (five minutes only), a repeat of the morning fog dynamic occurs.  The number of pilgrims has quadrupled and the option for places to hear kirtan and release karma are also increased.  It’s all so much devotion.

I will declare that I am not missing the mundane sounds of the West, not even the East when it has no connection to the parama dhama, the supreme abode.

May the Source be with you!

4 km

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Mayapura, India

Fabric of the Gods

Anywhere that you roam in India, village or city, you are like to see cloth blowing in the wind.  It could be on someone's person, a woman's sari's end flapping in the wind or even a man traditionally dressed in dhoti or lunghi doing the same.
What I like about wearing cloth that may be caught in the hands on an airy day is that from a distance the ongoing and onleaving motorists see more of you.  In my walks through Canada people have been able to see me from a distance.  The cloth is an extension of yourself.  In volume there is more of you.  My mission is to strike a controversy so the monk's attire helps apart from the unique colour.
Now I'm bringing up the topic of material as in fabric, because cloth was used like crazy today.  In our delivery of the "Gita Concise" the drama held in the Nama Hatta Building, an aqua with silver thread fabric was used to portray creeks, a much more expansive strip of cloth conveyed an ocean.
The play went exceedingly well, the evening session of cloth took the shape of a mellow fashion show, the first of it's kind in Mayapura.  Shukala from Australia and Mandali from Croatia are both fashion designers, who put together a VANDE supported event, "Fabric of the Gods".  Maybe we should describe it as a fabric show instead of a fashion show.  It was a marvelous display of Vaisnava attire from different sectors of India showing the diversity of style.  Colours were vibrant.  Cloth was sick.  The models were modest.  There was no cat walk.  How did I get involved?  And being a monk?  Well as chair person for VANDE, an initiative for promoting the arts, I've got an in.  Besides I was requested to be at least one of the hosts introducing the scenes along with friend Kripomoya from England.  Organizers felt that if a sanyasi monk would back the show it would give the stamp of approval.
The venue, the Samadhi Auditorium, was packed even though there was minimal promotion.  It just goes to show there are social needs even within a spiritual community.  In my opinion it was a 'clean' show.  Licentiousness was not an issue otherwise little old me 'monk' wouldn't tolerate.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Mayapura, India

The Innovative Monk

He was very strict with himself.  It was his birth anniversary today.  Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati is the guru of our guru and had been celibate all his life, that would make him a life long monk.
This morning we heard not about his austere nature but more about his innovation and creativity in drawing the masses towards spirituality.  Born in the eastern part of India, Orissa, he had established from that section of India a mission called "Gaudia Math" ending up with 64 branches or chapter.  When it comes time to 'display' or put on exhibits on spiritual life he taught big and did big.
Imagine a carnival set up for a fair which was inclusive of the latest pop music (we are talking about the 1920s), a popular theatre troupe with professional entertainers, wrestling, boxing and innocent amusements.  All featured on a square mile lot near the Ganges, this secular entertainment constituted half of the space while the second half demonstrated spiritualism.  There was also a luxury cruise arranged for dignitaries and along there were books on display by gurus of various denominations and followings.  Meat was also served and ready for the VIPs, he had just about everything in place to lure the masses.  Successful he was.  Outgoing with ideas? Yes very much so.
Bhaktisiddhanta was not just a monk he was an intellectual.  When it came time to deal with Britished ruled India, his eloquent use of the English language surprised statesmen and VIPs from that community with his use of language and erudition.
British imperialism was the strong hold in India and the social political climate of the time was to have the British leave forever.  Subash Chandra Bose also known as Nettaji was a powerful revolutionary at the time and he approached Bhaktisiddhanta about his recruiting so many bright young men and that they would be much better put to use in the army.
Bhaktisiddhanta, however, refuted any attempt by others to discourage the mission of spreading higher consciousness.  He also had a reputation as the Simgha Guru (Lion Guru) as challengers of philosophy and theology would be intimidated by him.  He was a powerful speaker and physically was a towering figure as well.
He stood up for the truth in the most absolute way.  He was staunch with himself and liberal when communicating in a growing world of liberalism.  We have the greatest reverence for him.  His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura "harmony is possible only when one has attained a firm footing in the dharma or the function of the soul".
May the Source be with you!
6 KM

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Two Gals!

Mayapura, India
Lakshmipriya ! and Vishnupriya !  These are two names of two elephants that have their own campus complete with several acres of space which include a variety of trees.  They have their own tank for a bath and lots of dust from the ground for relieving themselves from heat.  Dust is something they generously help themselves with by the use of their trunks.
A small contingent of us Canadians, on foot, went to check them out.  It was dawn and they were nurturing each other (with their trunks once again).  Keshava who was with us from Toronto expressed his love for the mammals.  "Since I was a kid they were my favourite animal".  He also went onto to say that they were a matriarchal dominant species.  They lead the herd while the bulls are out doing other things.  "I guess he meant mating."
One thing I had picked up sometime in the past is that the male's reproductive organ can weight put to 50 pounds, so I have heard about the herd.  Perhaps its in reference to African Elephants, I'm no Elephant guru, I admit.  In Vedic context the famous elephant Airavata who carries the demigod Indra.  Gajendra is another hero, a bull who enjoyed in the water with his lady Elephant friends when a crocodile came to attack him. He struggled in that water trying to free his leg from the clamped down jaws of the reptile.
They say Elephants are smart.  This one - Gejendra was moved to prayer and eventually got liberated with Vishnu's help.  Vishnupriya, the name of the one of the Elephants we were looking at means "the one who's dear to Vishnu."
Of course, there is Ganesh, adorably known throughout the world as the remover of obstacles on the path of devotion.  In other words he's good luck!
It was a terrific walk seeing the two lovely ladies in their big, big bodies - worth the walk.
May the Source be with your!
6 KM

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014


Mayapura, India
I share a small room with two other people 20 and 35 years my junior. We get along.  We are working together on the drama project, so there some commonality there.  One of the follows is married.  The other is hoping to be.  We even tolerate each others snoring.
Mayapura is full with pilgrims.  We share a room not necessarily out of choice.  Its OK! As I said, I get along with my company, at least during our sleeping and shower time.
When its breakfast and lunch I meet with the other pilgrims who come from all over the world: China, South America, UK, Germany, USA, Canada, Austrailia, Bali, Thailand, etc.  I minimize time on eating and go from table to table to meet everyone, in fact I can't get around to everyone.  There are eight hundred people sitting and enjoying the meal.  The luncheon room at the ISKCON Leaders Sanga, ILS, is just huge.  My reason average one minute of time per table is greeting.
This 'greeting' is a segue into the seminar I attended on the world famous Krishna Love Feast.  The reason for this seminar was to step-up the quality presentation at these feast that have attracted people for decades.
One of the main thrusts towards improving the Sunday Krishna Love Feast is in the warm greetings.  In some places the program tends to be lagging behind, to that we might celebrate the phrase, "if you are looking for a breakthrough, try breaking your routine!"
Its all about people, isn't it?  And India if full of them, one billion.  Things can be tight in a country full of people.  Its a great place to learn tolerance.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Where It Started              

Mayapura, India
Srivas Angan is the birth place of kirtan in the modern age. The home of someone by the name of Srivas Thakur is the location where just over five hundred years ago ecstatic chanting occurred. But it was not until four and a half centuries later that kirtan made significant inroads to the world outside south-east-Asia.
This afternoon a group of perhaps just over 150 people processioned to this place. The people- where did they come from? They hail from all over the world just as one of the saints Bhaktivinode predicted that Americans, Russians, Germans and more would converge at this sacred place and give glory to the one responsible for birthing the sankirtan chanting movement. That person was Sri Chaitanya.
It was an uplifting rhythm trek with kirtan that brought us to the Angan. This is the real way to execute pilgrimage, with song. I had the honor to lead the chanting on the way over but had to leave at some point, only to be somewhat annoyed. The traffic is aggressive here. Trucks, cars, scooters and bicycles rule the Bhaktisiddhanta Marg, the road with a width of an average North American driveway.
What will this mean ten years from now, in terms of traffic congestion?
I met my dear spiritual sister, Sishaka, on my return walk. She is an avid walker and cyclist. She expressed some concern about the energy of traffic on this pilgrimage trail.
As India gets more and more modernized and her national pride continues to surge while trying to catch up with the rest of the world, it might be smart to look at safe traveling trails.
What made the procession different  was the police escorts. In their presence there was traffic control. I love the police for this reason. They were backing the Pilgrimage and that's commendable.
May The Source Be With You!
5 KM

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

New Delhi, India

Missing But Found

It’s always an honor to speak about walking icons.  Before me were dozens of resident brahmacharis (monks), I talked about this young prince who actually ran away from home, perhaps walked.  He felt some neglect from his parents, a stepmom and biological father.  He was only five. 

He took to the wilderness and also the trails of sadhus (sages) and finally found a suitable place for his meditation. He met his guru there - Narada Muni, who gave him a mantra.  "om namo bhagavate vasudevaya" From this mantra he becomes powerful as an ascetic and a medium to communicate with the Divine.  With his strong conviction and encouragement from the aforementioned personalities he had gone through an internal cleansing.  After a brief six months practice of both astanga and bhakti yoga, he decided to leave his place of meditation and return back home on foot, back to the palace actually.  The missing child came home.  Troubles and miscommunications were reconciled.  A regretful father and his two mothers (even the nasty stepmom) had regained consciousness, so to speak.

I had been telling the boys from our little drama troupe after their terrific performance before a packed house at the temple that there is nothing more unsettling for me than when I see these bills posted, like at a bus station, of missing persons.  Mostly they are kids or teens.  In our Vancouver community one teen was last seen on a bus.  He never made it home and police have not heard hide nor hair of the unfortunate young fella.

Practically, in most cases these missing persons did not go for a walk to achieve enlightenment.  Your imagination can go wild on what may have happened to such souls.

Dhruva's story was a happy one.  He had anger issues from time to time.  For the most part he championed those frailties and became a great leader.  It was a pleasure to talk about one of my most favorite walking heroes, Dhruva, to a group of great bhakti yogis. 

May the Source be with you!

4 km

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Missing But Found

New Delhi, India

Its always an honour to speak about walking icons.  Before me were dozens of resident brahmacharis (monks), I talked about this young prince who actually ran away from home, perhaps walked.  He felt some neglect from his parents, a step mom and biological father.  He was only five. 

He took to the wilderness and also the trails of sadhus (sages) and finally found a suitable place for his meditation.  He met his guru there - Narada Muni, who gave him a mantra.  "om namo bhagavate vasudevaya".  From this mantra he becomes powerful as an ascetic and a medium to communicate with the Divine.  With his strong conviction and encouragement from the aforementioned personalities he had gone through an internal cleansing.  After a brief six months practice of both astanga and bhakti yoga, he decided to leave his place of meditation and return back home on foot, back to the palace actually.  The missing child came home.  Troubles and miscommunications were reconciled.  A regretful father and his two mothers (even the nasty step mom) had regained consciousness, so to speak.

I had been telling the boys from our little drama troupe after their terrific performance before a packed house at the temple that there is nothing more unsettling for me than when I see these bill posted, like at a bus station, of missing persons.  Mostly they are kids or teens.  In our Vancouver community one teen was last seen on a bus.  He never made it home and police have not heard hide nor hair of the unfortunate young fella.

Practically in most cases these missing persons did not go for a walk to achieve enlightenment.  Your imagination can go wild on what may have happened to such souls.

Dhruva's story was a happy one.  He had anger issues from time to time.  For the most part he championed those frailties and became a great leader.  It was  a pleasure to talk about one of my most favorite walking heros, Dhruva, to a group of great bhakti yogis.

May the Source be with You!

4 KM

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

To the Hill

Vrndavan India

The sun hadn't yet met Vrndavan until late. The six of us who took that popular pilgrimage around the celebratory and sacred hill, Goverdhan, were rather okay with that. Given the time of the year (days are short) in the northen hemisphere) and the overcast that stubbournly hung for a while, it gave our treck more energy retention.
Maha Mantra and Fil, both from Canada were on this trail for the first time, Nrsinghananda and Mukunda from the U.S had hit the dust here before. I've relished the six hour trek in the past (eleven years ago was my last) but it was our New Zealander, Kala, who appeared to be the expert, knowing the trail, he became our guide.
The 6:15 AM starting point was momentous at some juncture in the road, a mere few kilometers from Vrndavan. Which got us there by cab, from there our 22 KM trek commenced with the magic of Goverdhan itself unfolding delectibly before us.
Goverdhan is more like an escarpment flounting its ancient work and trees. The rock takes on hues of orange and violet, big and small. From a birds view Goverdhan assumes the shape of a peacock. At its edge are some quaint and significant temples. It is home to hundreds of bird, monkeys and nilagava, a blue deer- like cow, famous from the time of Sri Krishna Himself. At one point we admired the various animal communities enjoying breakfast together- green parrots, pigions- pigs, monkeys and cows. Pilgrims from all over India recognized our crew. They addressed us with a Hare Krsna which goes to show that Krishna Consciousness is becoming well established in India. Interaction with fellow foot travelers was inevitable.
Our vist to Radha Kunda, a particular watery haven was also memorable, one you get beyond exception. One aggressive apparent resident guide, was a very high strung, in your face guy who was mostly rupee conscious. I asked him to sit down with me, next to the sacred water. He did. " Now let us go over the mantra together," Hare Krishna..." I would not get past the first two words with him. I figured that if the mantra could meet his pan-chewing, never-seen-a-tooth-brush for teeth that there could be some benefits. As we sat together I asked him to chill, politely, and even stroked with my hand over his back a minute long massage just to get him on his good side. To no avail did he calm and left without a coin to his keep from us.
Our pilgrim group terminated this trek where literally thousands of pilgrims were, on this trail daily. We were happily fatigued, visited numerous temple along the way, chanted mega-numbers of mantra, interacted with folks, loved each others company and admired being by a hill that once Krishna lifted to protect his devotees from torrential rains, demonstrating his affection for the spiritually-based
May The Source Be With You!
23 KM

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Brussels / Delhi

In The Air
Our flight attendant, who is training to be a pilot and whose surname is Krishna, interesting to chat with. He regularly chants on his meditation beads as the two of us passengers were doing.

My companion to India is a young monk, Maha Mantra, who hails from Pickering, Ontario. We were both learning from our attendant about flying. For instance the engined plane we were on with Jet Airways has the bulk of its fuel in the wings, "More so than fuel in its belly," as he put it. We didn't know that.

We were watching the guys outside de- Icing the plane. Apparently the aircraft doesn't get off the ground when the wings carry some resistance for instance the ice. Despite all the engine power, the size of the wings and quantity of fuel the mechanics are such that the plane won’t get off the ground with all the ice on it.

From Brussels to Delhi a new team of flight attendants came on board. This time Anish, took over the shift of taking care of people's need. I always learn something about hospitality from these people. I've seen incidents when their patience is tested. According to Anish, “When someone has had just one drink too much he/she can go over the top with their behavior. At that point, we the flight attendants can never get angry," he said. Anish was curious about the Bhagavad Gita. He had been on old truth that applies even to modern times.

"Right you are," I explained to Anish, who is a young father, you learn first how to submit to your own psychophysical nature. Do as you are obliged. The second and final lesson is about submit to the will of the Supreme. "The first attitude blends into the second."

Take care Anish and Krishna from earlier on!

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Monday, 17 February 2014

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Noida/Delhi, India

Minimal Enjoyment                

Walking today was once again at a minimum due to circumstances.   A cold rain hit the area.  I have neither the clothing nor the footwear appropriate to withstand the elements outside.  Besides, I wanted to experience the atmosphere of a new sacred  space , a new building or temple, now officially open, in Noida.

Local residential monks and lay-members were huddled closely together benefitting from each other's body heat, in addition to sweaters and chauddars, as they sat in happy mediation.  It was 5:30 AM when after the first part was completed, that every five minutes a person would be bringing in a blast of cold wet air into the place of meditation.

I took to a circular-shaped pacing route in the room before settling in a chair. It was then my hour to deliver the Bhagavatam class, the third one since arriving in India.  From Canto 5 the message of the "Forest of Material Enjoyment" alludes to pleasure.  This is misleading, however, because duality is the actual reality.  Much pain is infused into the physical world and many people on the planet are steeped in it through war conditions where fear has over taken them. For millions of people the bare necessity are not met. One Vaishnava saint wrote about enjoyment in the material world proclaiming it to be minimal and liking it to taking a few drops a water while in a parched dry desert.

All around challenges become a preoccupation with little peace.  Even in the effort to create sacred space a disturbance welcomes itself.  To make the point more clear read next paragraph.

Our stay in Noida was over and we cabbed our way to Saint Nagar district in New Delhi where we booked our selves at the ISKCON guest house. We had time to catch up on rest, read, write and have darshan, the viewing of the deities of Krishna.  In the temple room a digital sign keeps rolling out the message for pilgrims, "Beware of pick pockets!"

So while we find ourselves in an apparent safe haven, there are still things to worry about - the worry of theft.  My pilgrim friends have lost in the past their shoes, phones, wallets, ID cards, etc. The point is, as long as we reside in this world it is a rarity to find complete, total, cent percent comfort.  Hence we must surrender to the spiritual.

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Nodia, India


As out little drama troupe was in the midst of our practice for the Hindi version of "Gita: Concise”, an interviewer came, a Ms. Singh from the Delhi Times was informed about my being in town and that a story about  "The Walking Monk" might be interesting; she was gracious.

The usual questions came about why, where and what's next?  To put it briefly I told her about the value of pilgrimages, about the countries I've ventured through on foot and about doing Route 66 in the U.S. as a major undertaking from New York to San Fransisco.  I also told her of the many visits to elementary schools this last summer while walking through the Canadian prairies along with Daruka, my associate, and a parrot.  The teachers loved the notion of getting away from computers and games to see a bigger world, a bigger picture.

After the interview and drama practice I enjoyed some down-time reading through the pages of a new book by Lokanath Swami, "In Conversation With Srila Prabhupada".  I'm sure that my admired monk friend, the author, doesn't mind me pulling out an excerpt that got my attention.  It's to do with a walk he was on with our Guru, Srila Prabhupada on November 13/1975 Bombay/India:

"As Srila Prabhupada quickened his steps and we hurried along behind him, we glanced upwards to the clear Juhu beach sky and observed a flock of geese flying through the air in complete synergy with each other. Srila Prabhupada stopped, dug his cane steadily into the ground and commented,"’Yes… fast, these birds.  Airplane cannot do that.’

I inquired, ‘How do the birds determine the direction of their movement without clashing into each other?’

Srila Prabhupada responded, Informing me, ‘Yes, they have got intelligence.  You are thinking they have no intelligence. They have got complete intelligence.’

I acknowledged Srila Prabhupada’s explanation and pushed the discussion further.  ‘How do they all decide together to turn either right or left without clashing?’

Srila Prabhupada replied with authority, "That is intelligence.  You do not know that if you are given airplane, so many… immediately, at least half a dozen will be finished. That means you are less intelligent then the birds, at least in the matter of flying.’

Those who were there to hear the remarks… were highly amused.”
May The Source Be With You!
0 KM

Friday, 14 February 2014

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Noida, India                 
What Needs Doing                  
One journalist, G.S. Tripathi writes, "The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is a primary source of eternal knowledge. Bewildered by the challenges before him,  Arjuna seeks Krishna’s intervention in removing his ignorance and leading him on the path of righteousness.  In response, Krishna talks about the immortality of the soul, knowledge of eternity and the transient, supremacy of action bereft of desire for it fruits and the necessity of being equipoised under the spell of the duality's of life." 
While so many reverential and celebratory activities are going on with the opening of a new temple, and this eventful day of saint/avatar Nityananda, our drama troupe is focused for our evening performance of  "Gita:  Concise".  I had the privilege to partake in the ancient abhishek rights for installing murtis (beautiful images of Krishna).  The balance of the time, however, was with the guys in our troupe who committed to the full eighteen chapters presented in a nut shell. 
While introducing the drama to a crowd of hundreds, I confessed to giving not much time to the puja, or the rituals. My puja has been to the members of the troupe, who are my deities, in a sense. 

Mukunda, who is a new fellow for me to work with and who plays the role of Arjuna, told me between practices, "I'm really getting absorbed in the part and trying to comprehend my characters dilemma".  Maha Mantra, who has got the dance steps down in the production, is like the pillar of knowledge of props and costumes and just how to "rhythm it”  on the stage.  Fil had manifested as the details person.  Goura is the dependable person Krishna, and Kish is my co-voiceover person.  Manoj is perfectly cast a Ganesh.  We have all become inter dependent in the endeavor, learning from Krishna's message that a warrior-type focus is necessary in the discharge of duty. 

While our Aussie sound man, Damodara Pundit, Kish and I are on the side-lines to do our job. Our stage boys wowed the crowd when finally our turn came for a marvelous cultural show. 

Pulling a production together in India at an outdoor pandal (marquee) program isn't often an easy task.  Only if you “focus focus focus " are you likely to succeed at anything.  Still, the Gita teaches, "Do not be attached to the fruit of the work, but to paying attention to the execution of what needs doing."
May the Source be with you!
3 KM

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Noida, India 
Dusty Street  
While I had a chance, I went for a stroll on a dusty street and made friends with a cow.  I made enemies with dogs.  I tried to follow the old and wise directive, "Let sleeping dogs lie”.  I was trying to do just that, but one of the mutts was awoken by my foot steps, and that was it. They blasted out their barking.
I also tried to connect with a pedestrian youth by saying, "Hare Krishna!" as it's common enough in India, but he remained resolute in his purpose.  He noticed me for sure, but he had been plugged in with a white i-pod, so I didn't matter. 
I did befriend a Chaukidhar, a security person with uniform and stick, near someone’s lot.
You will sometimes succeed in friend making, other times not. 
The big news in India is about a tigress out in the wilderness who claimed her eighth human victim in a rural area. The last one was a 78 year old man where remains were found by locals. "Gruesome!"  “Sad karma!" were my thoughts.
I was chanting japa during this time of the short stroll and mentally addressing or taking note of all the interactions both repelling and attracting which were all very real. Then a moment of truth gripped me in the course of the walk, in the course of the chant – “I have so much cleaning to do."  Nothing in this was to do with laundry but only to do with the internal cleanse.  It hit me like a ton of bricks. 
There is all kinds of trash within all of us that needs nullification. The individual endeavour to "clean house",  so to speak,  the human obligation.  I can’t fault a pack of dogs for barking or a hungry tiger on the prowl, or even judge a youth for being in his own little world.  Even when petting the cow at the flabby neck her response wasn't 100% courteous.  I have got my own inebriety to work on.
So, absorb myself in the mantra as best I can and carry on. 
May the Source be with you!
3 KM

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Noida, India           
Temperature Getting Us Close         
At this time of year in India,  at least in this more northern region, everyone gets bitten. Not by dogs. Not by mosquitoes. By a chill.
In the soon to be inaugurated temple in Noida, all those present are wrapped  up in or under dhotis or saris with long johns, coats, chadars, toques and hoodies. There is no central heating so you live off the warmth of your own body heat.
Us Canadians, that is Maha Mantra, Fil and I, have a better immunity to winterism. Thank God! The other members of our theater troop for instance our two guys from Florida, Kish and Mukunda are a little more sensitive to the nippiness.  Finally, Godruma Goura from Pennsylvania can handle it alright.  Actually he could probably pass for a polar bear in terms of relishing the coolness. 
Apparently we have been all accommodated for our practices of drama, "Gita: Concise" , in a tight and relatively warm space.  The room is approximately a 12X12 space, ridiculously small.
I'm not really complaining.  I told the crew, "For starters, this space is and needs to be like an incubator.  In this snug area as actors we can develop the abhinaya facial expressions, the actual emotional side.”  As the director I get the opportunity to see more close up projected feelings.  Once we get that down then we move to a more spacious facility which permits more unrestricted physical movement. 
Busy we are with drama preparations for the opening night of the inauguration.  I see less chance for walking with time restraints and also lack of pedestrian friendly walkways.  Maybe we are in the wrong part of town where our guest rooms are located, but up to this point, it’s a hard place to figure out, although on some kind of grid system. The settlement of the city of Noida is a progressive, expansive place.  Too much of a car city for me.  As a redeemer though, I’ll give the place a 8.5 out of 10 for the people being so nice.  To be truly introspective though,  I have a ways to go to match that kindness I can be cold at heart.
May the Source be with you!
3 KM

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Vrindavan, India 
Janardan is from the Philippines and joined the ashram in Toronto to become a monk in the 80's. Most recently he became a swami. People address him honourifically, as tradition has it, he is now a "Maharaj". It takes a bit for me to get use to this title.  We are proud of him.  I have worked for years together with him.  I was the president managing the Toronto temple while he was a great support and assistant. That changed when in ‘96 when I went for a long walk across Canada. He took over the presidency and is now a major coordinator in our international centre in the town that Krishna was raised in.
Janardan Maharaj, or Swam, said, "We are going to take advantage of your short stay here. Please lead some kirtans and give a class on Bhagavatam".  I complied in the mood, "If it helps you.”
It was last evening that I was already engaged in a presentation. The school academy for boys had me lead them in the chant and dance, and to say a few words that would inspire. Naturally, I dipped into the topics of pilgrimage. It looked like the hundred and more students had a bhakti blast. 
To follow up on the presentation, a young man who heard my talk came to me and asked my opinion about a personal project. He told me that a Sharma fellow from Delhi  has done all the research on the travels on Rama, which includes three hundred or more locations of where He did His wonders, and covers fifteen hundred kilometers.
"I would like to take that route. I have a passion for walking.  What do you think?" he asked.
How should I not encourage someone like this?  I suggested for him to team up with a friend and to share his realizations with others, encouraging them into higher consciousness.  I hope he succeeds.
This morning I delivered the class from the Bhagavatam, highlighting the life of luminary foot traveler, Ramanujacharya who propounded the philosophy of  “Visishtadwaita” and did much to define the personal aspect of the Divine.
 May the Source be with you!
2 KM

Friday, February 7th, 2014

 Noida, India

Spiritual But Not Religious

Here we are in India, the land of dharma. Maha Mantra, the monk from Toronto, and I are joined by Fil and Mukunda, readying ourselves in Nodia, New Delhi's arm or suburb for the two hour trip to Vrindavan.

Lokanath Swami, our host from Maharastra has for years headed up a ministry for padayatra, which means, "festival on foot”. He has successfully seen to a pilgrimage involving a group of walkers, and a pair of oxen pulling murtis of Chaitanya and Nityananda, the 16th century revolutionaries promoting mantra culture. This endeavor has circled India several times.

Lokanath Swami, is physically a monk with a youthful demeanor, however, numerically he is in ascendancy to the point where he's looking for a padayatra successor. While he was showing me around the new construction in progress, Noida’s temple, which is already looking gorgeous, He asked if I could take the lead on the ministry. This is not the first time he's asking me. I’m touched that he has the confidence in me, but being a head for the creative arts team called VANDE, was the reason for the decline of the offer.

Our hour long time together in viewing the new facility in Noida, while having parlance on padayatra, made it clear that we are both engrossed in growing and expanding a more Vedic world throughout, not only constructing of temples (that’s his department), but through the humble act of walking. "Vedantic" is the word used by Phillip Goldberg, author of an article, in the time of India of yesterday, on America's view on religion. I browsed through the paper as we drove on the Yamuna Express en route to Vrindavan, and happy to note the expressway is well maintained. In the article, research by Gallup Harris and Pear discovered a trend in the U.S. It appears the reality is that "Many religions can lead to eternal life.” But common also is the notion that many people prefer to be in the category of "spiritual but not religious” (SBNR).

I found it interesting when he said every reputable analyst says that access to India's spiritual teachings has been a central factor.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Ongoing Pilgrimage

Life for me is an ongoing pilgrimage.

Again, it’s a voyage overseas – to India this time.  The trip will have nothing to do with the mystical walking on water or the Atlantic; haven’t mastered that one yet.

I recall on a visit to New Waterford, Cape Breton, in the early 90’s, that a group of curious kids was following me during a meditative walk by the ocean’s shoreline.  They were pre-teen, about six of them, one of the boys, the spokesperson, met me at the juncture of a road nearby.  He and the others had the look of spooked kids.  I guess they had never ever seen a guy in robes before, and robes that were being tossed about by ocean gusts.  He boldly stepped forward and asked, “Do you walk on water?”

I hate to say that I disappointed the group, that I was unable.  “I’m working on it though.”

What is going to happen today as I will take flight with Jet Airways to Brussels, and then on to Delhi, penetrating a rich and thick snowstorm. 

Yes, indeed, the elements are strong.  Nature is overbearing at times, but as the Gita so profoundly says, “The forces of nature are insurmountable, but one who takes shelter of the Supreme can easily cross beyond those forces (of birth and death).”  That is quite mystical.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

A Road Knower

It’s rare to meet someone like Michael.  We share a lot in common.  How so? 

Well, Michael Oesch, who helps people overcoming addiction issues, decided one day to walk across Canada.  It was a response to a buildup of challenges in life, which included a divorce, and then something happened to determine the long trek.  It was 2001 when 9/11 occurred, and looking at how the world was going more screwy than swanky, he took to the road on foot.

We hit it off real well.  He told me more of his story as we sat in the corner of our ashram temple, “In 2002 I walked from my home in Toronto out to Labrador and back.  In 2005 I walked from Toronto to Vancouver.  I battled with addiction.  The last addiction is the addiction to self, and once free from the inner voice of chaos, suffering can end. “

He listed amongst his heroes, Gandhi, Saint Francis and the Buddha.  He also told me of great moments to do with the challenges on the road.  It was hard to address the crusty, sweaty clothes from the days wearing on, and the moist shoes to step in because it rained the previous day, and also overnight while in the tent, to begin a fresh day of trekking. 

He shares a story of how near French River, he spotted a turkey vulture on the side of the road.  One wing was injured being struck by a vehicle.  The bird responded well to Michael, and managed to perch on his shoulder.  A motorist stopped and took Michael and the vulture to the local animal clinic.  Other redeeming moments of recall were when these gorgeous dragonflies warded off pesky black flies.  He also admitted to losing toenails, and to regularly popping blisters on his feet.  Moreover, Michael did his two walks solo, and was pitching his tent where he could in the wilderness.

What was significant for him on the journeys was gaining strength from where strength was sourced.  He left me a prayer which was an excerpt from his journaling:

Dear Lord
Grant my feet the strength to carry the burden I haul
Give me the courage to walk further down the unknown road
Through forest, swamp, field and mountain
I will follow my dreams and walk in the light
I will bring with me a smile to grace the day
And share it with all I meet
Until the day when I come to Your great ocean
And I shall walk no more
I will wade in the water
And let the salt heal my wounds
And be at one with this journey through life
Knowing you have guided me every step of the way

-          Michael Oesch

May the Source be with you!

5 KM