Monday, 31 March 2014

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Steps Through Food

Hiten and I had taken a few steps along Williams Parkway before his dad would pick us up for the drive to the ISKCON Centre in downtown Brampton.  I had spent the night at the family’s home.  I assumed, he is 14 and raised in Canada, to be a supporter of the local hockey team.  I had noticed the wallpaper in his room with Toronto Maple Leafs as the border trim.  It seemed to make a clear statement.

“You’re a hockey fan?” 

“I’m not following it too much,” he admitted. 

I know that he’s a fan of computers.  That’s pretty normal.  He loves food.  Who wouldn’t, at that age?  He also is fond of Krishna, which is a plus.  His parents tell me that he and his sister, Edha, take pleasure in bringing the tray of bhoga (food not yet offered to Krishna) up the stairs and then into their home’s temple room.  The tray of fruit, almonds, and rich cooked parathas is placed on the shrine before the deity of Krishna. 

The standard practice is that you present for the pleasure of Krishna, represented by a deity, food that’s prepared with love and devotion.  You chant some mantras before the deity as a way to say, “Please accept this humble offering of food as a token of gratitude.  This is all your mercy.”  After the few mantras are recited, one may take the tray of food, which is now consecrated, and is called prasadamThis blessed food is then distributed to those in the proximity of the offering place or the home. 

In the household where Hiten lives, he and his sister bring the tray of prasadam from the upstairs temple room down to the kitchen, and then eat with enthusiasm the shared prasadam

This ancient practice of prasadam disbursement has gone on for thousands of years in India, especially involving the temples of Krishna.  This practice is also kept alive in places like the ISKCON Centre in Brampton, where really tasty yogic food meets the tongue such as mine.  Hiten and Edha found the vegetarian feast that was held there to be absolutely delicious.  The feast was held after a moving ceremony of diksa.  Two people received initiation.  Nikhil’s new name is Nimai Nitai, and his wife, Manakshi, has a new Sanskrit name, Moksha Lila.  Congratulations to them.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

As Much As You Can

Rajneesh, so kindly drove me to Professor’s Lake in Brampton on the way to his home.  It was 11 PM and it was the first shot I had to get out and move around.  I needed to wind down.

“In order for me to get a decent sleep,” I told him, “I need to exert some physical exercise.” 

Rajneesh is very understanding.  He’s a social worker by profession and is sensitive to the human need, so we pulled into the parking lot and both took that trek for a half hour in circumambulation of the lake.  Hundreds of geese appeared to be in samadhi (trance).  You could see them faintly.  Some of them blurted out their ever so common honking sounds.  I was surprised to see ice, although thin, still on the lake’s surface.  All was serene and all was dark – a perfect place to end the day of beautiful busyness at the ashram where there was a memorial kirtan, a play practice, important calls to receive and to send, a bustling Govinda’s eating activity and intense cooking in the kitchen for the annual Yoga Show, and plus, the sanding and painting within the walls of our area.  All of these goings on were happening for the sake of advancing the spiritual cause. 

Frankly, the geese likely had a hectic day as well, and now they were resting on their laurels and acting the type of meditation they understand.  We all have to function within our own capacity.  As humans, the obligation is to be as introspective as you can. 

May the Source be with you!

 3 KM

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Columbus, Ohio

Walk To See A Cow

The cow’s left front leg was fractured in her home location, a barn in West Virginia.  She’s one of our cows, a Krishna cow, who hails from the New Vrindavan rural community, and was shipped over Galbreath Veterinary Center at the Ohio State University for physical care.  Gaura Nityananda, a Columbus monk, and I, felt pretty fortunate that this animal hospital was within walking distance of the Krishna House where I’m staying.  We made our way to this super clean barn which has multiple stalls.  We met Doctor Niehaus, the person who did surgery on the four year old bovine.  He was happy with the results of the surgery, and the cow (let’s call her Surabhi), seemed to demonstrate a joyful disposition, “She’s chewing her cud,” said the physician.  That was true, and at the same time that she was chewing, she also seemed to be doing an extended yoga stretch.  Her leg was in a cast, she appeared to be well on the road to recovery, and seemed to have overcome her complications. 

So now we have been speaking about a cow.  A cow, or bull, are sensitive creatures who meet with challenges of maybe a less complex nature in comparison to a human.  The human mind, for instance, is more that what anyone can comprehend.  On top of physical challenges, humans also have psychological challenges that we should perceive as opportunities. 

In this connection I would like to bring to your attention a beautiful quote that came to me today which came from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, our guru’s guru.  Here it is:

“Anyone who cannot understand that the complications which are ever present in the material universe are beneficial in a way that is pure, eternal, complete, and free… Is deprived of his true spiritual activity, devotion to Krishna.”

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Columbus, Ohio

I Went To Prison

My dear friend, Akhilananda, from Salem, Ohio, took me to the Trumbull Correctional Center to see Arjuna, a prisoner (aren’t we all?), and who will serve time for another 8 years.  Because of his great conduct, officers and inmates at the institution love him.  He has been put in charge of the art department for the whole place.  Arjuna isn’t anyone I can walk with until he is discharged, but I can certainly visit him annually.  He gave the good news that he’s soon to be engaged which will last until marriage, and which also won’t happen until the sentence is terminated.  Both Akhila and I are thrilled about this new development and are impressed with Arjuna’s patience. 

To Columbus I went.  There, I had the pleasure to trek with our sole monk from Krishna House located in the Ohio State University District.  Nitai Gauranga is the name of the monk who accompanied me along the Olentangy River, a stream of constant water that flows to the Mississippi.  The city here has put incredible energy into revitalizing and beautifying the river banks and protecting it from erosion.  I’m told the trail along the way goes a good 22 miles. 

To be explored at a later date.

Finally, evening came along and the usual Thursday gathering showed up.  From the Bhagavad Gita we spoke on 11.54 regarding unbroken service which repairs the broken heart. 

In hindsight, at the prison, a janitor asked, “What order do you belong to?” 

I had to repeat myself more than once, “Hare Krishna.” 

He obviously never heard the term before, and asked, “What kind of Christians?” 

I repeated, “Hare Krishna.” 

Thinking he got it right this time, he said what he thought I said, “Oh, Happy Christians.” 

“Alright, whatever,” I thought, and he went back to sweeping.

May the Source be with you!

8  KM

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Cleveland, Ohio

In Cleveland

I arrived at the bus depot in downtown Cleveland, and while I enjoyed this new space, so did some meadowlarks that happened to get inside.  They flew from light fixture to light fixture, pooping around and sometimes they came in for a landing picking up a snack scrap or two left on the floor.  They appeared to be trapped though, and they weren’t sure how to get out. 

This dynamic nearly reminded me of a famous episode in the epic, The Mahabharat, where Abhimanyu, the young warrior, so expertly was able to penetrate through the military barrier.  Once in, he was unable to exit as the barrier closed in on him. It is actually a sad moment in the story, and it meant Abhimanyu’s end

Dayal Nitai, my host in Cleveland, had come to fetch me while I had eyes on birds, and mind on the battlefield.  Once we arrived at his home at Hillsdale Road, he treated me to some of his raw food preparations.  He tells me he’s writing a book which includes those recipes of his, “Masterpiece Recipies”.

Now to work off the calories of that fine food, I ventured off, but only for an hour, taking in good air and moving my limbs.  I satisfy myself in breathing in what is one of the greatest gifts, and I appreciate that my legs  are the most outstanding mobilizers that a human can savour in.

A Wednesday group met at Dayal’s in the evening, and after a kirtan, our discussion based on the Bhagavad Gita 11.53/54, was all about the aspiration to see God.  Our conclusion was that as you pursue devotion, the eagerness to have a vision of someone calms down, and that energy transforms to “doing”, at which time, God sees you. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Birds and Time

I arrived at the Toronto Airport, anticipating warmer weather than what the prairies offered.  Such was the case, but we are still looking at below zero degrees, and what appears to be the most stubborn winter I can remember.  It’s interesting, one place that I visited in Winnipeg, Fort Whyte Alive Park, recently saw about 200 of those iconic birds, Canada geese, land on its grounds.  After a few hours, the birds got up in flight and headed back to where they came from, directions south.  People at the sight who had been working in the park for thirty years, never saw anything like this before.  It  just wasn’t the time yet for the feathered friends to settle in the north.

The chill, a mere ten degrees Celsius below zero, did not deter me from a daily walk.  I’ll always bundle up and brave any condition if equipped.  I just had a few precious hours at home, at the ashram, to reconnect with the other monks there, as well as with visitors.  That was more of a priority.  I did also manage to slip in a drama practice with some keen volunteers for our next take on “Little Big Ramayan”.  Stephen has come forward to play the role of evil Ravana.  He’s an opera singer.  And Corrado is a professional dancer and plays the deceptive Marichi in the form of a deer.  Somehow the talent is coming my way and I’m grateful. 

Monk-bonding and a scheduled rehearsal consumed some beautiful time before preparing for an early leave for Ohio the next morning.  I guess I stopped at home for as long as the geese stayed at the park.  This loss of time for a trek I’ll make up the next day, even if I have to fight for it.  The warrior in me will arise, watch out, time! 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Monday, March 24th, 2014

White City, Saskatchewan


Aang, the air bender, a popular character from the animation series, is the latest person that I remind someone of.  On the list is Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Forrest Gump, Martial Artist Grasshopper, Buddha, and actor Kevin Spacey – all people I’m supposed to either resemble or give a reminder towards.  Whether I’m on one of those marathon walks or at a venue for a presentation, people don’t hold back from addressing someone that is relatable.  These remarks can be flattering or facetious.  I must admit, that in fact, I’m just an ordinary person, a simple monk who is a Prabhupada man.  I belong to my guru and I’ve set out for his mission which is to share the consciousness of Krishna.  My portfolio in this regard is teaching the science of bhakti yoga.  Every day of my life, the compelling obligation is to share some lesson with someone.

An opportunity in White City came when three young men volunteered to join me on the local trail system.  Our step was cautious, moving over intermittent snow, ice and general bareness.  On one trail, deer droppings marked the way.  We found the owners, the herd, who gave a good long curious stare.  We returned the stare, but they outdid us.  We were not prepared to stay there forever.  As we began to move, so did they. 

So the choice of trails was there, to go the way of snow and deer, or to take the path of relative dryness.  In life, we all have a choice to tread either of two paths.  One is called nvriti marga, the road of spirituality.  The other marga (path) is pravritti”, the trail of self indulgence.  Take your pick. 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Monday, 24 March 2014

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Regina, Saskatchewan

Any Little Walking…

Any little walking done today was in sections.  I did a stretch of a Saskatoon suburb, a stretch along Highway 11, also Albert Street in Regina, and also including a little piece of the Trans Canada Highway, Highway 1.

In between I visited two mandirs (temples), primarily to speak and to chant.  At the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, I spoke from Bhagavad Gita, 2.1, wherein Arjuna addresses Krishna as Madhusudhana, which refers to Him as the slayer of a demon.  With this nomenclature, Arjuna appeals to Krishna, and hopes that Krishna will extinguish the demon of doubt.

Doubt isn’t always necessarily a negative feature.  It could simply represent a sign of intelligence and that one is craving to clarify some internal confusion.  A serious doubt that lingers, however, could hamper one’s moving ahead, and therefore, one may push on to clear this blockage.  This was the situation with Arjuna, and so he referred to the confusion within as a demon that needed to end. 

In Regina, at the ISKCON Centre, I spoke from Bhagavad Gita 9.30, which deals with God’s compassion over the soul who has slipped from dharma.  The message was that even if one slips from duty and commits a moral error, however big it may be, it doesn’t mean that one has slipped out of grace.  One is given another chance.  One needs only to be determined, to be rightly situated in attitude. 

I really liked some of the questions that followed after the talk, including Adrian’s query.  Adrian is only 7 or 8, “How do you get real love?” 

In short, I explained, “Generally if you give love, you’ll get love.”

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saturday, March 22nd, 2013

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


What can I say about today?  Well, the family I’m staying with, Kasyapa Muni and wife Panchami, Sanjay and daughter, Radhika, are quite excited about new prospects which are both physical and spiritual.

Recently they bought a larger home, it’s a done deal, and they’ll be moving in soon.  That’s the physical part.  The spiritual portion is this evening they will be installing in their current home, not a new set of furniture, not a new car for the garage, no indoor swimming pool or a fish tank with exotic fish, or a husky dog for a pet.  What they are zealous about is the installation of a gorgeous set of deities of Radha and Krishna for their shrine in the living room.  Friends then came in the evening for an abhiseka ritual.  I lead the chanting and explained to all the symbolic and relevant meanings behind the standard motions and rituals involved. 

In a home where a family executes bhakti (devotion), these types of ceremonies, arrangements and such add a good dose of colour, shape and meaning to life when positive images of devotion avail themselves to the viewers.  Daily puja (rituals) will be conducted, short and sweet.  People are welcome to participate.

While puja has become an integral part of my life, I also balance such events, whether at a home or in the ashram, with meeting the outdoors.  Of course, for me it means walking and chanting simultaneously.  Divinity can be found within and without, indoors and outdoors.  Over the years I have also come to realize, as I’ve heard and read about this one principle over and over again, that there’s nothing quite so precious in the rendering of devotion as companionship that comes either in the form of a spiritually grounded person or a spiritually eager person. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

A Genuine Pilgrim

I met Joyce in 2006 when I trekked through Saskatoon at that time.  She, along with other walkers, runners, cyclists and yoga people, sat down to hear some of my Tales from Trails stories, and lessons learned on the road.  The venue was a place called Yoga Republic, a cozy setting in a building dedicated to healing, and which was formerly a convent for nuns located on Idylewild Road (most people around here call it Iddly Widdly). 

I was happy to connect with her again.  At that time, in 2006, she sent me an e-message, saying she had an aspiration to do the Camino de Compostela, the famous pilgrim walk in Spain.  She also asked me in that message if she could join me for part of my trek while I was in the province of Saskatchewan. 

Meeting someone like her is rare, with all this passion she has for pilgrimage.  She regularly walks.  I expressed at the time that it would be a little bit awkward since I’m a monk, and she’s a woman.  If a third person was there, especially a male, it would be different.  Culturally, traditionally, that’s the way it would work.  I hadn’t heard from her after that.  In any event, I kept walking eastbound to complete a third walk across Canada.  It wasn’t until now that I heard from her and that I saw her for the first time in person at this night’s event.  She mildly persisted in the most gentle way, “Would you be willing to guide a group in a walk across Canada?” 

I could not give a complete answer to that, and I expressed that we could talk after the presentation is over.  My thought on the matter is, “Here is a real live pilgrim who in the meantime did walk the Camino.  How can I inspire and/or facilitate someone like this?”  I will give some thought to it and see if on a small scale something can be accomplished.

Those in attendance at the Yoga Republic joined us in kirtan, followed by halava snacks.  They left feeling lighter in heart and a little heavier in stomach.  I would really like to thank our facilitator, Lorel.  I was also thinking, “This is the silent time of year (winter’s end) when you have big dreams that you have to put in to plan and action.”  Earlier on in the day, my host, Kasyapa, and I were walking on soil as well as on ice and dry snow.  With our feet we were crushing the stuff under us with a crunch and a crackle.  This is the most quiet season of the year, but it’s a time when you can make the most noise. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday, 21 March 2014

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Shoe Guru

I’m not a shopper, but sometimes you have to…  In my possession I have summer Crocs and winter snow boots.  There is nothing that is appropriate for the seasons in between, so I decide I have to secure something for the feet.
It’s spring today, officially, but not in reality.  Colossal snow sculptures, remnants from the recent Voyagers Festival, still adorn some of the medians at city boulevards.  They are impressive.  Still, it’s winter.
To address my need the generous Daruka, my benevolent support person throughout this recent cross-country walk, drove me to Canadian Footwear Limited on Adelaide Street.  Billy was the name of the clerk dealing with us.  He was terrific and did a super job.  He sold me a pair of Gortex hiking shoes.  I did joke with him,” I was initially thinking along the lines of getting flippers,” considering the pools of water being formed outside, a result of the snow’s thaw.  He was inquisitive about the order I belong to.  My robes usually hit people’s curiosity button.  His presumption was that I was Buddhist

“Krishna!”  I said, “Hare Krishna!  Origins – India.”

Pleasantly he asked, “What brought you to this?” 

And I responded by explaining my thirst for simplicity of life.  He asked about my fourth time walking the country, and I explained, “To promote pilgrimage.”  But more so, I remained attentive to getting the shoes I needed and to achieving the best buy for the best product.   Billy was also focused on the sale and the product.  I continued the conversation.  “In my youthful days of quest, I listened to the Beatles.  They went to India, they went spiritual.”

“Oh yeah, the sitar and all that,” Billy recalled.  Billy was smooth as ice.  A super sales person.  He’s like a shoe guru. 

Now, for the test on my shoes.  Doug, a friend also with us, who put in half towards the purchase, took a stroll with me through the business district of town.  What a slush world it is.  My new booties held out, and I thank Krishna for seeing to it that I had provisions for my tootsies.  Hare Krishna.

May the Source be with you.

5 KM

 Billy at Canadian Footwear in Winnipeg helps the Walking Monks buy a new pair of shoes

 Snow Sculptures in Winnipeg

Snow Sculptures in Winnipeg

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Winnipeg, Manitoba

It sounds a little bit like celebrating reincarnation.  The term ‘up-cycling’ is used when rejected matter is turned into something practical.  We are talking about scrap items, old building material, broken down furniture, parquet floor pieces and such.  It is all reinvented in a useful way as stunning art forms.  So, matter that would normally be destined for the landfill, now has value. 

I was a fortunate one to be there for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of a shop called “The Scrap Came Back” located on Saint Anne’s Road where on shelf display and for sale there were unique one of a kind art pieces made of various what would be rejected materials.  Fred Penner, the renowned children’s entertainer, who became popular for his song, “The Cat Came Back”, was there to snip with scissors, the ribbon, marking the opening of some real nifty art work ranging from ornamental pieces to birdhouses, all assembled by disabled citizens. 

It was a pleasure to meet some of the artists as well as Karen Fonseth Schlossburg, representing DASCH, which stands for Direct Action in Support of Community Homes, the legal entity behind the project.  The sale of items goes to support these worthy folks of disability.  Thus far, DASCH has built 55 home to accommodate such folks. 

I also met Carol, who recently returned from Pune, India, for a yoga upgrade.  And me, being a bhakti yoga instructor, allowed for us to share a lot in common.  But believe me, I was the only monk at the party, and was happy to be wedged into an art crowd and their supporters. 

In practice and in spirit, this art community lives by the slogan, “Re-purposed, re-imagined, recycled, and fair trade”.  Sounds much like the transmigration of the soul. 

To live up to my claim as a bhakti yoga instructor, I put this into practice in the evening, but at another location.  Leading kirtandiscussions in devotion, and carob flavoured goodies embellished our night. 

May the Source be with you!
0 KM

 Fred Penner cuts ribbon at The Scrap Came Back Store in Winnipeg

Bhaktimarga Swami at ribbon cutting ceremony

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Incidents Do Happen

Nick and I left the ashram before retiring for the night ‘to get some rounds in’.  By that term we don’t mean we’re playing golf or anything of the sort.  We are referring to having our fingers go a revolution or more on our mediation beads while reciting mantras.  And in the process, we are walking.

A good progressive walk we did in terms of speed, up Bloor Street West to Christie Pitts and back in one hour. 

Nick has been fairly occupied as of late in the care of Tulasi, the sacred plant so commonly honoured in Vaishnava ashrams and temples around the world.  He’s also doing extra kitchen duties, filling in for one of our monks who slipped and fell on the kitchen floor, landing on his right hand and leaving him incapacitated. 

Accidents and incidents do happen, even in a spiritual environment.  Currently, our community in Toronto is quite shaken up about losing a dear member.  Mayapur Chandra was a young man whose body was recently found outside in the snow.  He passed away from hypothermia.  He had a lot of young friends who feel a great loss in the community. 

It was this evening that a grievance counselor by the name of Rajnish from amongst our community took the group of mourners through introspection and prayer.  The support system is well in place, and in an effort to help boost the morale, I had made a special dedication through a 9 Devotions workshop this evening before ‘getting some rounds in’. 

I wish to give a special moment of reflection to honour Mayapur Chandra for his kind, sharing ways.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Oshawa, Ontario

In Rick’s Class

I arrived early at Durham College’s room where Rick conducts his classes.  I sat down waiting in the room with just a few students who are also early and who had made themselves comfortable along the classroom’s edge.  As the trickling in of students trailed on, there was a continuation of gravitating to the outer seats where they opened up to their individual computer gadget or book.  Book?  Yes!  Surprise!

Rick came in.  It’s always great to see him.  By now, the middle portion of the room filled in.  Rick gave the intro to the students about the guest speaker and mentioning about my pilgrimages across countries.  More so, he wanted me to speak about the Krishna culture.  I was to convey how Krishna devotees theologically see the world through our lens.  Whether we accept or reject other paths to the absolute.  What do we as a group struggle with amongst ourselves, and how do we solution this?  There were other points he wished me to cover.

They were a good group of students, really attentive, and especially so when I began to speak about our challenges in recognition of a divorce rate that should and could be lowered within our community.   I mentioned that we started to give attention to the problem, “Faith and family should run together relatively smooth.”  I explained that secularism and materialism have imposed a major shakeup to the family unit.  In other words, I was taking a strong position for spirituality being a major component within relationships.  “Spirituality is supposed to build up your sensitivity, tolerance, patience, love, and togetherness.”  It has been observed that many people take to the spiritual track to gain stability in their lives and that by partaking in community activities aim to achieve enhanced harmony.  We all need a good support system.

In any event, questions came.  Time spun by very quickly.  I was just about to do a demo on the drum, the mrdanga, and then to chant, but the hour zipped by in a flash and the next guests came in, two young male members of the Mormon Church.  They were absolutely amiable.  We exchanged handshakes and words of goodwill.  Of course, spiritualists should support each other and not see each other as adversaries, even if from a different denomination. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario

Fast to Feast

Savyasacin had gone to his godfather’s for the evening while I was accommodated in the apartment right next to our Ottawa ashram / restaurant.  There was not to be any eating today.  Govinda’s restaurant is closed on Sunday.  And besides, we are looking at a fast today in honour of Sri Chaitanya’s birthday. 

Who is Chaitanya? 

As I had outlined to the people in the packed place, he is the avatar of the current era (yuga)  who introduced kirtan to the world in a very extraordinary way.  He is credited for bringing the magical preoccupation of chanting yoga to the modern world.  As guest speaker, I expressed to the crowd the obligation we all have in offering him our gratitude.  I also spoke about his encounter with the two nefarious characters, Jagai and Madhai, notorious outlaws who struck fear in the hearts of all humble townsfolk in Bengal’s Nadia district in very early 16th century.  There was a serious scuffle which involved these two characters and his close associate, Nityananda, but the outcome was a miraculous conversion from heathens to saints for the lives of these two murders, Jagai and Madhai.

Chaitanya was on regular pilgrimage.  His prominent walks were from as far north as Vrindavan in the Delhi area down to the southernmost section of India.  He particularly loved the pilgrimage site on the eastern shore at a place called Puri and spent much of his last 18 years there.  Walking played a big part in his life, as a renunciate, it was a veritable practice. 

Oh yes, and our fast was also followed by a feast.  Scrumptious!

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Norwood / Ottawa

Two Stops

Savyasacin and I were headed for the city of Ottawa, not by foot, no, that would take two weeks.  We were scheduled to a satsang (gathering of spirits) in an Ottawa suburb for the evening.  We drove, and through another storm, in another day of the winter that refuses to end.

A stopover in Norwood, midway to Ottawa, was really cool, as was our visit to the capitol city.  At the home of Kirtan, mother of 12 great kids, we had lunch, and talks with members of the neighbouring kirtan group.

Now I don’t intend to be redundant with the word, kirtan, but the person’s actual name is Kirtan, which means, a singing or a praise of the absolute.  It just happens to be the name awarded to her by her guru.

The group, from Peterborough, were curious about my passion for walking.  The door of glowing opportunity then arose for me to highlight pilgrimage as a positive outlet for people, as an ancient therapeutic practice, and as a search for answers to otherworldly quests.  I had passed through this town here in 2003, took to some trekking on the nearby Trans Canada Trail, and found myself under constant attack by horse and deer flies.  The only relief was a submerging into the waters of a local lake. 

Speaking of submersion, our little kirtan group did enter into the chanting of the maha mantra, after which we sunk teeth into muffins and chips and guacamole dip.  A great group of chanters and munchers we are. 

Savyasacin and I really look forward to being with the group in the not so distant future.  All hail to Kirtan, the person!  All hail to kirtan, the chanting! 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

The Raw Thaw 

Snow! Ice! Slush! Water! That’s what you get on a day like today. It’s the raw thaw. And it’s okay. It’s an adventure going through it all, as I traversed Yonge, Bloor, Bathurst and Dupont streets.

I feel no regrets not being in a car. I’m happy on my feet. There’s something sweet about it.

As I went (direction West) with a blinding sun in the eyes, I could make out a toqued chap coming towards me, hands in pranama.

“How are you Maharaja?” said he.

Oh it’s you, Jiva-nuga!” I responded.

Immediately my thoughts raced to the past. He’s a fine human being. His roots are from the East (New Brunswick) and he had joined the ranks of monks in the West (Vancouver) years ago. While he’s no longer a man of the cloth, and chose to reenter civilian life, his time in a brahmacarya regimen really benefitted him.
I’ve always liked Jiva, he’s as honest as you can get. He’s quiet and mild, but strong of body and skilled with his hands.

With the sun to my left shoulder, now going North-bound on Bathurst, I met another pedestrian, an acquaintance. It was Kathleen O’Connell, widow to Professor Joseph T. O’Connell, pioneer in many ways for helping establish wholesome dialogue between leaders of different faith groups.

Before his departure, Kathleen told me that Joseph recently set up a comparative religious course in the University of Dacca in Bangladesh. His office was right next to the fundamentalist Islamic group. With his charm, wit and intellect, Joseph managed to build a bridge of communication.  

He was also thrilled, back in 1968 in Boston, to meet our guru, Srila Prabhupada, during the embryonic stage of a promising bhakti movement.

It was great meeting Kathleen. She was watching her steps, as I was, to evade slush and water pools as we parted our ways. It’s my assumption that she’s a walker and doesn’t mind the adventure that goes along with it. You don’t get this kind of interaction when buzzing around in a car.

May the source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Thornhill, Ontario

Local Pilgrimage 

One way that a pilgrimage can be analyzed or defined is when a person or a group of persons make the journey to a sacred place. As simple as that!

Within the greater Toronto area, we now have four official ISKCON places where the science of Krsna consciousness is practiced and is open to the public. Really, we have just begun within the last decade in this endeavor to grow. And there is a vision to continue increasing the numbers. This morning I ventured to one of those places.

Two short blocks away from Dundas square (Toronto’s version of Times Square) is a humble and quaint, two-floor level place of beauty. Situated above a greasy-spoon restaurant on the street level, is something called Bhakti Lounge, where I was invited to give the early morning class.

I walked it, happily. I even stopped by fellow pilgrim, Jivanatha, along the way and together we forged ahead. He moved to Toronto from the gorgeous Kawarthas area a few months ago.

You wouldn’t think that pilgrimage would entail moving from one sacred spot, our ashram, to another place of devotion within a short length of three kilometers, but why not?

Our discussion at Bhakti Lounge was great. These young bhakti-yogis are super-bright. They pose fantastic questions, centered around the father’s duty to the son. The great literary monk, Vyasadeva, spent a concentrated many years teaching his son, Sukadeva, the science of self-realization.

Being that this week is March break, children are home from school. Our temple/ashram administration organized an escape for parents by coordinating a Krsna Kids Day Camp. Guess who was one of their presenters?

My topic was “Who is Krishna?”

The most common response from the group of little ones (age 5-15) was, “He is our Protector.”

The number two popular answer was, “He’s our best friend.”

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday, 14 March 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

The Right Vision

Weather conditions were such that it made it prohibitive to trek a serious length.  Today I walked pacing our inside balcony back and forth.  I did walk intellectually through a string of verses from the Bhagavad Gita, a kind of power tight rope walking.  From chapter 13, Nature, The Enjoyer, And Consciousness.


“Oh chief of the Bharatas, know that whatever you see in existence, both the moving and the non moving, is only a combination of the field of activities and the knower of the field.”


“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul within the destructible body is ever destroyed, actually sees.”


“One who sees the Supersoul equally present everywhere, in every living being, does not degrade himself, thus he approaches the transcendental destination.”


“One who can see that all activities are performed by the body, which is created of material nature, and sees that the self does nothing, actually sees.”


“When a sensible person ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahman conception.”


“Those with the vision of eternity can see that the imperishable soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature.  Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled.”


“The sky, due to its subtle nature, does not mix with anything, although it is all pervading.  Similarly, the soul situated in Brahman vision does not mix with the body, though situated in that body.”


“O son of Bharat, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.”


“Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal.”

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

A Stirring Inside

As winter begins its exit, dreams of outdoor opportunities open up.  Even a monk is no exception to this phenomenon.  After an hour or two of being occupied in a freshly painted office, it was necessary to burst out of our ashram building and let air do its magic.  I almost sprinted on Yonge Street with enthusiasm excited about the spring in the air. 

One of my students had earlier on reported seeing one of those bright red male cardinals (the bird and nothing to do with the Vatican).  This was a sure sign of spring.  As I walked along, one street guitarist between songs expressed his joy, “It’s a great day to be alive!”  Couldn’t agree more. 

In the Yorkville area a woman saw me and simply said, “Hello.”  She acted on spontaneity when she noticed I was doing my work in progress, chanting softly on my meditative beads.  She said, “Oh, I’m sorry to interrupt.”

“No, it’s quite alright, you did nothing wrong.  Enjoy this day.”

“I am.” 

When I returned to the ashram and made my way down the corridor to the office of fresh paint, I glanced at a copy of one of those summer adventure ‘zines’ called “Wilderness Tours” left in the desk tray.  The overall message of the publication was ringing out, “Get outside!”  The publications highlights more boating adventure as opposed to walking, but I like some of the quotes used regarding life and nature and how to get the most out of them. 

From Rich Ridgeway, “Life is either a daring pursuit or nothing at all.”  “The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.”

From comedian Danny Kaye, “Life is a blank canvass, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”

From Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Teach your children well… and feed them on your dreams.”

From Eleanor Roosevelt, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience of the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”

From William Butler Yeats, “I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore… I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”

From Rudyard Kipling, “Something hidden.  Go and find it.  Go look behind the ranges.  Lost and waiting for you, go!”

When spring springs, urges to do more stir up inside.  Go out then and find yourself and find God. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

I See The Ice…

From “Here Comes The Sun” (George Harrison):

“Little darlin’ I see the ice is slowly melting…”

These fine lyrics were somewhat ringing in my ears as I watched tiny rivers in all directions by the sidewalk headed for lower altitudes, pouring into manholes.  Patches of concrete were dry.  Other patches were mounds of snow. 

Is it a sign of the end of the winter of our discontent.  Who knows?  I can’t complain too much like others around here.  I evaded much of 2013/14 crazy cold freeze having been in Guyana and India, walking through fair weather. 

With melting snow racing to its destinations, ultimately contributing to one of the great lakes of the world, I see raja guna (the mode of passion) at play.  And in a really good way.  It’s like when the soul, having spent lifetimes in silly pursuits, suddenly comes to a state of realization.  The blockage of ignorance is finally broken.  One becomes conscious. 

Or, we could compare the thaw to the unborn child packed up in the womb, and then now makes its entry into the world after a long wait. 

I could see other pedestrians happy with the melt.  I could hear at one spot the loud sound of ice and snow collapsing under the wheels of an automobile’s tire because there was no more anchorage to hold up the mass elements.

These sights and sounds were like a jazz session – happy, moving and stirring.  I trekked until the sun was no longer coming, but going, as it caused a spill of saffron across the western sky.  Nature is entertaining. 

I thought, “I just went to a free concert with gorgeous visuals.  Thank you, Creator, You are the Source.”

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Chaitanya’s Verses

My walking was in a Brampton residential area.  I went out the door at the house of my host, Rajnish.  I turned left, then right, and then right again…  You understand the situation.  I was going in circles until I got back to where I started at 10 Meridian Road. 

Today I also delivered a class on the Gita, 10.11 at the Vedic Cultural Centre.  Then I shifted to Toronto at the ISKCON Centre to speak on the power of sankirtan (collective chanting).  I read out my paraphrased version in rap style of Chaitanya’s well known 8 verses, called, Siksastakam:

There's victory in the chanting of Thee Name

Which cleanses the heart from bein' insane

From karma collected overtime in vain

Extinguishing the fire of material life

Birth n' death n' physical strife

This chanting, is the prime benediction

Sparing us from the nasty addiction

Spreading like cool moon rays it is

Elevating us to the state of bliss

Allowing everyone a taste you won't wanna miss

It's the joy we are truly searching for

With wisdom at it's very core

Master, Your name’s a blessin’ to all

You're known by the names that we can call

Like Krishna, Govinda (and Gopal)

All powers invested in the sound

Transcendal energy tightly bound

Kindly dispersed we have access to You

No hard, fast rules, not even a few

I’ll just give it all my heart

I’ll attempt to do my part


I am afraid my attraction for this sound

Is something my heart can’t wrap around

It is best to chant with humility

To be as humble as you can possibly be 

It’s like a blade of grass, you see  

And be tolerant like a tree

And for false e-go, just let it go  

Respect all you do and do not know

In such a state, you’ll end up feeling great

Oh, One who is beyond all measures!   

I have no desire for worldly treasures

Nor for any kind of sensuous pleasures

Nor for followers, fans, and such leisures

I only want to offer my devotions life after life after life…

Oh Krishna, son of Nanda, I am Yours, 

Somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean away from its shores

Of birth and death and plenty more 

Pick me up from this drowning sensation

An atom at Your feet escaping damnation

Krishna, when will I shed tears of love forever

When the sound vibration won’t ever sever

When will my voice choke up with emotion

And hairs of my body stand up from devotion?

All from hearing the sound

From hearing the sound

Govinda! Feeling your separation a moment is twelve years

There are these incessant flowing tears

How can there be solace

When you appear not to hold us

I know only You and it will remain so too 

Even if your embrace is rough

And a broken heart isn’t enough

You are completely free to do anything

And completely free to do everything

Saving me from disaster

You are my guiding master


May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

My First

I took my first trek since returning from India.  So I went down Yonge Street near Dundas Street, a black chap held a stack of publications in one arm.  It is entitled, “Black Heroes”.  I justified not taking one as he extended one issue with his free hand.

“No thanks,” I said.  No racism intended.  In my mind I had three justifications.  In the first place, I carried no money to pay for the publication.  Number two, I was really needing to concentrate on japa meditation without major breaks.  Lastly, I already have the black hero in my life – Krishna.  I did not voice my simple concerns to him even though he demandingly responded with a, “Why not?”

The next person I took particular note of on the street was talking, but to no particular individual.  Paradoxically, he was speaking to everyone who passed by him.  His message was about Jesus.  I could see he was attracting no audience, and that should have no bearing on the personality Jesus himself.  It just appeared to be a gospel that’s been spoken many times over, so people had heard it before. 

The third person to speak to me directly was a woman appealing for change.  She was nice about it when I smiled and nodded, “No.”  I could actually hear her smile as I passed by and she remarked, “Well, maybe next time.”  She was most self-reassuring. 

It was nighttime and moving into the morning when I took this much needed trek.  I was addressing the jet lag syndrome chanting my japa.  Being awake to the non-worldly matters, I realized I was on another continent again, with different people, who have the same kinds of needs as on other continents and in other spheres. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM