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Our temple room in Toronto has a tilt to the floor and when you walk on its surface, it’s easy enough to see and feel the slant. Walking this morning on that eternal slant was easily my greatest challenge, as when I walk on the shoulder of a road. You know, the engineering of any road’s construct is such that the slant accommodates a rainfall’s run-off.
Incidentally, because of a cold rain, I decided to walk-off my food intake indoors. That left me pacing the temple room floor which has a glossy linoleum finish. It has been suggested the floor be replaced with marble tiling. If that was ever to happen, it would not be a foot-happy situation. Currently, the floor is soft, pliable, and even danceable because of the pine wood slats underneath and the spring effect there, that was initially intended.
It is this part of our building that was built in 1911. Our other section was up first. A cornerstone indicates that it was erected in 1897. It was a Methodist congregation who occupied and built up the place, with its smart limestone exterior, at this great location near the museum, just north of Queen’s Park, blocks from the country’s largest university—the U of T, near Casa Loma—a castle of substantial size, and a five minute walk from classy Yorkville.
We’re proud of our building which resembles a fort of sorts, outside and in. And the floor, despite its slant, was built for a good view. From the point of view, when you would sit in a pew, it's not really bothersome at all.
May the Source be with you!
The Bhagavad-gita continues to be one of the world's most popular and inspiring books, covering topics such as the immortality of the self, the origin of all existence, how to remain peaceful in the most trying circumstances, and the relationship between us and God.
To celebrate Gita Jayanti, we will be reading the entire Bhagavad-Gita between 4:30pm and 7:30pm. We will alternate between reading Sanskrit and English chapters.We warmly invite you and your family to come join us for this very special festival this Saturday.
This holiday season, take the perfect gift for your family & friends - a set of Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavat Purana), also called ‘the ripened fruit of all Vedic literature’. The complete Srimad Bhagavatam set contains 12 cantos in a beautiful 18 volume hardbound set, and is available also in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, and many other languages. Click here to get a glimpse into the Srimad Bhagavatam!
In order to share this gift widely, it is being offered at a discounted price of $299, or only $29/month on a payment plan (offer ends Dec 31st). Please reserve your copy now before we are sold out! If you already have the Srimad Bhagavatam, we are making the entire nine volume Caitanya Caritamrita available for just $99!
Please help us preserve these priceless gems of Vedic wisdom for the generations to come!
These two bull calves were rescued from a dairy recently by the activists of ISKCOWP (International Society of Cow Protection.) These calves will be protected for life and trained as an ox team to show their usefulness as an argument against their slaughter. In the dairy they are considered useless because they do not produce milk. Unless rescued they will be sold as meat. More information about the project: http://iscowp.org. A video by Chayadevi Dasi.
(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 06 May 2002, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.11)
Resistance to surrender comes from maintaining material attachments even after receiving so many instructions on this subject matter. This is what holds us back! But how do we overcome this obstacle? We do so by being brave in Krsna consciousness, by being brave to choose for Krsna. We cannot just be ordinary devotees and just let our spiritual life go along. No, we have to be brave to do something special for Krsna. This is what is required! Let us try to be the exception. Let us not be of average standard and say, “Well, everybody is doing it like this so you cannot expect anything more from me.”
No, let us do something brave for Krsna and Prabhupada and then we will conquer our obstacles. We see in the scriptures the descriptions of those who conquered, they all made special endeavour. So let us try doing something extraordinary in our own way, according to our own inspiration. It is between us and Krsna.
We see in the Bhagavatam, in these pastimes, these personalities all did something special and they got special mercy and it is by mercy that we are going to be purified. We cannot purify ourselves, it is by mercy. We must attract mercy; we need mercy of the devotees, of the sadhus, of real saintly people and we the need mercy of Krsna.
Saintly people are merciful but they do not get too involved with people who are too materially entangled, they give a bit of mercy but then they withdraw from that association. So the more one is endeavouring to be Krsna conscious, the saintly people will notice that and will want to give their mercy. We all can equally attract the mercy of Krsna by special endeavour. This is the only way, there is no other way, be brave and trust Krsna.
I was walking around the pond and happily met Malati, a dear god-sister, who was feeding the peacocks. They became the subject of our discussion. You know they are beautiful conversation pieces. Malati had tossed out an assortment of seeds and corn, and those birds, about ten in all, were relishing lunch like anything.
In the course of our chat, we both observed an interesting dynamic. The crows quietly made flight to nearby trees. They helped themselves to branches for perching. When the peacocks had their fill, the chickadees bobbed around and took to the remnants. Bon Appetite! The crows still waited.
The next installment was two blue jays. Aggressive or what? They zoomed in with their larger wing-span and threw off the tiny feathered-friends, the chickadees. For the final swoop, the crows came down and finished off what was left.
Here we saw a genuine display of ‘pecking’ order. Most interesting! Maybe a form of caste system?
I left the quiet of the country, New Vrindavana, for the airport at Pittsburgh; then to Toronto, and then Union Station. I was searching for the subway transit system when I met a flock of birds. Dudes rather. One particular young Afro-Canadian fella asked, “You’re a monk?” I told him I was. “Holy F***! Oh! I’m not supposed to swear?”
His friend said, “You can swear but he (meaning me) can’t.”
“Oh!” He was stunned, but shook hands and promised to visit me, and he won’t swear if he comes.
May the Source be with you!
Another day with glorious purposeFeeding the soul, doing all to uplift usI spoke from a verse of the BhagavatamOf symptoms of Kali where you find little calm.
A Cleveland clan came then to visitA break, a change, a bhakti deposit.I spoke from the Gita: 9, text 2,Of what’s confidential to me and to you.
Pilgrims did come to make an investTo advance their soul and doing what’s bestThe chanters did dance and dancers did chantMissing the presence of those who just can’t.
Vraja and I took to the palace road,Walking and talking with no heavy load.We sighted an albino, a pure white deerSmartly he dashed, for it’s humans to fear.
At Lila and Jesse’s we drank ginger lightWe chatted, ate wraps—was joy at each biteHe pulled out guitar and she the fluteThe songs they sang were beyond what’s cute.
The day was of glory, full and completeI walked back on my little ol’ feetReviewing my input for these past hours“Gave only half of my heart” and then there were showers.
May the Source be with you!
Few people get married in December, but bridegroom, Vrndavan Das, had adjusted from an earlier date to today, since that was when I was available. Bless him! The couple, Vrndavan and bride, Neetika, both were recipients of blessings from friends who came from Europe, India, various locations in the U.S. and Canada (me).
The ceremony was of good cheer, although not perfect in its execution. The pundit/pujari or priest, Krpamoya, had to work his way through a muffled sounding microphone, while a second mic became the instrumental tool for the chanters who came off as competitive in volume. All that aside, you had a gorgeous celebration. Some newcomer Caucasian folks (friends of Neetika) were highly impressed with the richness of display—not necessarily in monetary pomp but in feel.
The ring was given, so also garlands were exchanged, and the knot was tied, her saree to his shawl. For the tongue, a phenomenal cake was devoured and for me, the salty stuff was a delight—veggie preps and paneer kofta, a non-violent dairy savory.
After the satisfying meal, a walk, up and down the sloping McCreary’s Road, was justified, and there I met devotees, attendees to the wedding from Atlanta. They were curious about the location of the goshala, the cow sanctuary. So off we went in their rented SUV and made it to the herd; bulls and cows, happy to be given some attention.
When I think about it, every day of our life is complete when we give attention to humans, animals, the trees and the earth.
May the Source be with you!
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna states, “For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.” (BG 18.68 & 69).
Thus, we are asking for your help with “Sastra Dana” or sharing of knowledge, by sponsoring Bhagavad-Gitas or other Vedic texts. For example, sponsoring 108 hard-bound Bhagavad-Gitas is $1,080, 108 soft-bound Gitas is only $540, and 108 other smaller Vedic books is $216. You can give as much as your heart desires. There is no minimum, and no maximum, the whole world is in dire need of this literature. Please note that your kind donations towards Sastra Dana will be tax deductible.
Over the last five years, by the generous support of our donors, the Sastra Dana Team has placed over 55,000 books in close to 500 locations! This year, we continued placing and replenishing copies of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is in hotels and motels all over Ontario as well as, in hospitals, community/welcome centres and cultural centres in the GTA.
Last year, the placements in doctors offices was a new avenue, and this year, placements in international airports was the latest innovation. Other avenues are being explored, and 2017 is sure to bring more venues as Sastra Dana becomes more established and reaches a larger audience every year. The Sastra Dana Team is forecasting several thousand book placements as they continue to increase penetration in hotels and other institutions. In fact, we already have over 1500 Bhagavad Gitas in cue for placement in the first quarter of 2017.
To learn more about where we've placed these books please click here.
Please support the Sastra Dana Program wholeheartedly to bring these books to newer avenues.
Toronto's Hare Krishna community is very excited to once again be welcoming Vaisesika Dasa and Nirakula Devi Dasi to our community from Dec 17th to Dec 21st! Their visit will be punctuated by a whirlwind five days of seminars, classes, and book distribution! The official schedule is as follows:
Srimad Bhagavatam Classes
Saturday Dec 17th to Wednesday Dec 21st
7:45am to 9:00am (Followed by Breakfast)
Sankirtan - Hitting the Streets with Spiritual Knowledge
Saturday, December 17th - 11am-2pm
All devotees are welcome to join Vaisesika Dasa as we collectively hit the streets with our beloved spiritual books with the goal of sharing our beautiful spiritual heritage with the public. Stay tuned for more information!
A Night of Kirtan with Vaisesika Dasa
Saturday, December 17th - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
You won't want to miss this opportunity to dive deeper into melodious kirtan with Vaisesika Dasa. We will explore some of the beautiful chants of our Vaisnava tradition and the mood will certainly be sweet. Join us for what will surely be a very special evening!
Sunday Feast with Vaisesika Dasa
Sunday, December 18th - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Our weekly Sunday extravaganza will include a special class by Vaisesika Dasa. Toss in some amazing kirtan and mouth-watering vegetarian feast and your Sunday should be booked!
Tuesday December 20th 6:30-8:30pm
A special edition of the weekly tuesday sanga, an interactive discussion with Vaisesika Dasa.
On New Year's Day, Sunday, January 1st, 2017, Toronto's Hare Krishna temple will be hosting our annual Srila Prabhupada Festival! Promising to be a great way to start the new year, the festival is usually one of the biggest of the year.
The festival will feature plenty of kirtan, wonderful classes, dynamic presentations and a sumptuous feast to help ring in the new year! The highlight of the festival will be another spectacular drama, presented by Bhaktimarga Swami. You won’t want to miss it! There will be no better way to usher in the new year on an auspicious note!
Detailed Festival Schedule will be Posted Soon!
As we do every year, devotees gather at the temple on New Year's Eve and then head over to City Hall to join the tens of thousands of revelers, ushering in the new year. However, we come armed with our drums, karatalas (cymbals) and voices as well!
Here's all that you need to know about this evening:
8:00pm - Kirtan will begin at the temple.10:00pm - The kirtan will really pickup by this time!10:30pm (approx) - Bundle up and off to Rosedale station.11:30pm - We will start chanting in front of Old City Hall (NE corner of Bay & Queen)12:00am - the kirtan will reach it's peak as fireworks set the sky ablaze!1:30am (approx) - We'll get back on the subway and make our way back to the temple for hot ginger tea and snacks!
Some tips to keep in mind for this evening:
- Come early to the temple - enjoy the kirtan and association of devotees before we head out to City Hall.
- Dress warmly - it may be chilly, so dress in layers!
- Don't worry about weather - whether it be snow, rain, hail or sleet, we will usher in the new year with kirtan!
- Bring your voices - don't forget to chant with all of your hearts!
(Kadamba Kanana Swami, September 2008, Cape Town, South Africa, Lecture)
When the principles of the mode of goodness becomes our second nature, this is the point where you begin to enjoy spiritual life. Spiritual life is very nice! We are chanting and having nice association and we are very happy.
But this is not all. Still we must sacrifice, we must do whatever we can to save condition souls. You may say, “Well, you know, they’re very sinful, very fallen and I don’t know if I can associate too much with those people because I might fall down. It is better to stay safe.”
Sit there safe in your nice little spiritual life, in your sweet little Krsna bubble but know one thing for sure, you are STILL-NOT-FULFILLED! There is STILL-SOMETHING-LACKING! In spite of everything, in spite of having all the Krsna conscious videos that you can imagine, in spite of having 3 000 cd’s, in spite of having 12 000 lectures and 78 000 pictures of Krsna… in spite of all of that still… still somehow or other, a sense of emptiness just hits you every once in a while.
So, if we do not make that sacrifice, if we do not take the trouble to save the condition souls, it will not happen, we will not be truly fulfilled and satisfied.
Srimad-Bhagavatam contains a discussion between Dharma, in the form of a bull, and the Earth, in the form of a cow. Eventually he asks her, “The so-called administrators are now bewildered by the influence of this age of Kali, and thus they have put all state affairs into disorder. Are you now lamenting this disorder? Now the general populace does not follow the rules and regulations for eating, sleeping, drinking, mating, etc., and they are inclined to perform such anywhere and everywhere. Are you unhappy because of this?” (SB 1.16.22)
In his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The so-called administrators are all untrained in the affairs of a ksatriya. The ksatriyas are meant for administration, as the brahmanas are meant for knowledge and guidance. The word ksatra-bandhu refers to the so-called administrators or persons promoted to the post of the administrator without proper training by culture and tradition. Nowadays they are promoted to such exalted posts by the votes of the people who are themselves fallen in the rules and regulations of life. How can such people select a proper man when they are themselves fallen in the standard of life? Therefore, by the influence of the age of Kali, everywhere, politically, socially or religiously, everything is topsy-turvy, and therefore for the sane man it is all regrettable.”
What Srila Prabhupada wrote more than fifty years ago is relevant today. And the antidote would appear to be to educate people in Vedic knowledge as presented in Srila Prabhupada’s translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam and other books—delivered to them by people such as me and you.
Read about Vrindavan Part 1
Read about Vrindavan Part 2Written by Rukmini dd
Monday, 07 November – The Hills of Varsana
It became a familiar sight to watch Maharaj launch himself into the bus and claim the front seat. Once aboard, he would often break into fluent Hindi (Dutch or English in the same breathe). He dealt with our driver or some locals, taking charge of every situation – and in India there are always “situations”. The bus ride was never his favourite part of the day. He could’ve easily opted to take a private car and a smoother journey for himself but he made the sacrifice merely to be with us.
Whilst the bus was stalled at a train crossing, Maharaj munched on a couple bananas. Breakfast is never an issue for him on parikrama although he often would consider us and and allow us time to satisfy grumbling tummies whilst he just continued speaking or singing; the glorification of Krsna should be nirantara – incessant.
And then the hills of Varsana rose up in front of us. Adi Kesava and Maharaj planned our route just before exiting the bus. Maharaj was very eager to go to a particular kund, which was to be our last stop. As we walked in to the small town, we suddenly found ourselves lodged between the sharp juncture of two hills with vertically flattened rocks. Maharaj climbed halfway, choose a spot on the rocks and began bhajans at what appeared like a common village crossing.
“Sancaricor, where we are now, is where two hills join; the perfect location for Radha and Krsna to meet. This narrow passage way is the perfect location for the dhankeli lila, where Krsna demanded yogurt and butter as tax. One wonders, ‘Doesn’t it get boring?’ We are always looking for something new, different. On the spiritual platform the pastimes is so sweet one can’t get enough therefore it just continues in different varieties.”
Our next stop was Ciksoli, or the village of Citradevi and it was a climb! Around Varsana are the villages of the astasakis, the eight principal gopis. Here Krsna and his friends would steal yogurt and butter from the storehouse of Citra’s family. On one occasion they were caught and escaped via the window, only Madhumangal got stuck and the elder gopis found him and punished him ‘in the place that mothers do’. The temple was beautiful artwork with a substantial hall to host guests and our kirtan party. On the way back down, Maharaj bumped into Bhakti Caitanya Swami. Vrindavan gifts us the darshan of sages at every turn. We did a quick walk through Srimati Radharani’s garden, which has taken some effort to reinstate, before bracing ourselves for the heights of the Varsana hills.
“We can’t pinpoint these places, we rely on the locals and some places are just there to recreate the transcendental nature of the dham.” We are blind in Vrindavan. What can we see? We move forward, walking in Maharaj’s giant footprints. We sit when he sits, move when he moves, bow when he bows. All we can hope to do is just keep moving, up the devotional terrain, higher and higher, ignoring the complaints of tired bodies. “Keep moving, don’t fall,” was the mantra. Often times he would look over his shoulder to ensure that none of us fell by the way side.
After a brief pause at the Rajastani temple and a stolen darshan, we moved forward. Panda’s block our path every few hundred meters calling, ‘dhaan, dhaan’ beseeching us to pay for our entrance into this holy place, much in the mood of their Lord. I couldn’t help but feel that ascending the hills of Varsana was but a metaphor for the path back to Godhead. And suddenly we were there at the Sriji temple, a breath taking wonder with a view to stop hearts. The pujaris gave Maharaj preferential darshan and he shared the mahaprasadam with each of us with his own hands, calling for kirtan. After all, should we reach the spiritual world, what would we do? We would do what we always do; chant Hare Krsna.
Varsana gave us many moods of mercy, but solitude was not one of them. Maharaj searched for quiet, meditative spots but it was not to be. We descended from the Sriji temple to the kund that Maharaj was anxiously wanting to visit.
When Srimati Radharani was cooking for Krsna because of Durvasa Muni’s benediction, Mother Yasoda was very pleased with her. She wondered,”Who is this girl, is she the Goddess of Fortune”’ Yasoda was convinced that this girl was the best match for her son. Spontaneously she smeared tumeric on Srimati Radharani’s hands. “What is this?” Srimati Radharani enquired, alarmed, “This means you are now engaged!”
“I’m too young, what will my parents say?”
“Just show it to your parents, they will be happy.” Radha was embarrassed. Lalita said that its just tumeric so she could wash it off. There was a pond nearby, with deep blue water and Sri Radha washed her hands. As she looked at that that pond she became absorbed in remembering Krsna. She washed her hands and just kept washing and washing till not only the tumeric but her very own golden colour entered the water.
“And so we remember Lord Caitanya because it is by his mercy that we may come here. Local residents are here by their karma, not us. So we respect the local residents, who knows what pious activities they have performed to be here? But for us, Srila Prabhupada created our piety.” Maharaj mentioned that it was easy to see that even in India, a land of saints, Srila Prabhupada his purity and unique love for Krsna stood out. At Peelu Pukor our feet touched the earth again and connected to the ground in gratitude.
Wednesday, 09 November – Brahmanda Ghat and Raval
As we piled out of the bus at Brahmanda Ghat, Maharaj was the first to quickly circumambulate a sacred tree and appease the pujari with a donation before moving to the actual ghat; only to find a host of local ladies bathing. So he hauled back all the brahmacaris and sent the female disciples down to scout out and let him know when the coast was clear. It was a hilarious start to the day. After our numerous attempts to get them to ‘juldhee, juldhee’ (move quickly) eventually Maharaj descended and settled on a spot midway on the stairs. He began bhajans with some of his classical, never-out-of-fashion tunes. Kirtan began slow and meditative with a gradual build-up and this seemed to be more his mood in the parikramas. He tried to keep the drummers from speeding up but eventually he couldn’t help but reach rocking. The holy name is a natural pivot in all our parikramas and a significant way we gain entrance in this sacred places; to simply serve in singing.
Maharaj opted for us eat to breakfast, since ‘eating’ was quite the mood this of place, it was where Krsna supposedly ate clay. Once Krsna returned from the forest with the cowherd boys. All of them complained in unison to Mother Yasoda that Krsna had ate clay. “It’s a lie,” Krsna said, “A political entreaty. A plot for revenge.” He was innocent. He didn’t do anything. But Balarama testified that Krsna did indeed eat clay. “Even your big brother agrees,” countered Mother Yasoda. “Oh Mother,” crooned Krsna, “How can you think of that of your own son? I can’t believe that my own Mother thinks I’m a liar.”
Within our minds we visited Nanda Maharaj’s palace, quite nearby, and placed the dust on our heads. And more bhajans at the side of the Yamuna. Every holy name must be pronounced to perfection, each unlocking a different mood in the melody.
After Maharaj ate few ‘powder apples’, the tasteless India variety, he motioned to wash his hands at a water pump. A kind villager was pumping water and allowing a cow to drink. Maharaj humbly waited. The cow caught sight of Maharaj and paused to let him wash his hands. Maharaj offered his pranams to the cow before leaving. Who knows who the animals in Vrindavan really are?
Our next destination was the birth place of Srimati Radharani, Raval. As we exited the bus it was evident that other parikrama parties were both inside and around the main temple in Raval so we entered the temple only to offer our obeisances to the Deities which included a Deity of Radha in childhood form. We crossed over to the nearby gardens and found shelter under a sacred tree which is all you need in Vrindavan. We didn’t realise at first just how sacred that kalpavriksa was; a Tamal tree entwined with a Kadamba tree, representing the Divine Couple. It had been a tiring journey for Maharaj. He had given so much of himself in and around these parikramas that in the first kirtan he almost fell asleep. He switched gear to speaking about our connection to this sacred place.
A theme throughout the parikramas has been that Vrindavan is covered but can be perceived by adjusting our consciousness. Maharaj added that sometimes the dham itself manifests through the external layer, like in the form of the sacred trees where we resided. He explained that the essence of such a sacred place, if we meditated according to our lineage, was to see that we are “simply the servant of the servant of the servant, a hundred times removed” because if we don’t bring such high pastimes back to the level we can assimilate then we risk taking them cheaply. Being very much over our heads in such a setting, he directed us to pray to Srimati Radharani for her mercy; that we may serve with a little love that our worldview may change and for a drop of taste, “What could one drop of taste not do for us?” We had come to Vrindavan looking for Krsna. Maharaj assured us that even if we didn’t find Him, the search was blissful and we would have secured the next drop of mercy that would help us forward. That was how we were to survive – drop by drop.
With these prayers buried in the soft earth of Raval we returned to our buses, dragging our feet. It was such a blessed place. No-one really wanted to leave.
The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the world’s largest association of scholars in the field of religious studies and related topics. It is a nonprofit association, serving as a professional and learned society for scholars involved in the academic study of religion. It has some 10,000 members worldwide, with the largest concentration being in the United States and Canada.
The long-term, multiple-entry visa will be given up to 10 years but under this category the visitor will not be allowed to work or stay permanently, a government official said.