October 10, 2003 VNN8397
Spiritual Trek Brings Monk Through MD
FROM ROCKY VIEW TIMES
CANADA, Oct 10 (VNN) By Samara Cygman
Supposedly, according to old eastern tradition, spotting a monk walking on the side of the road is a good omen. This should be exciting news to many a Rocky View resident after spotting 50-year-old Bhaktimarga Swami, swathed in bright salmon-coloured robes, walking on the side of Hwy 1A, Oct. 2.
2nd cross-country walk
The honest-to-goodness Hare Krishna monk is blazing his trail across Canada for the second time to promote the simple life and raise awareness about peace and spirituality. My walk is like a pilgrimage and it's a chance to meet people, which is what's happening, said Swami of truckers, hitchhikers and cyclists he's gotten to know. My effort is not to try to get people to convert but to try to get people to think a bit about balance.
In 1996, Swami did a similar type of journey, walking 8,500 km and wearing out four pairs of shoes from Victoria, B.C. to St. John's, Nfld. This time, he thought he would start east and work his way west.
Journey began in May
Since he began his journey May 3 in Cape Spear, Nfld., Swami starts each day with three hours of meditation using a string of 180 Neem wood beads. His 45-km-a-day goal makes him so tired, when night falls he doesn't care where he sleeps. You're tired enough you can sleep anywhere, said Swami. He is lucky to have two full-time companions with a van full of vegetarian food and supplies picking him up at night and dropping him off early in the morning. Our main expense is fuel. Isn't that ironic? laughed Swami.
To aid in battling the expenses, Swami gratefully accepts the donations given by the generous people he meets and uses the bit of money saved up from a stint he did with a film crew in Calgary in the 1980s.
They were making a documentary called The Longest Road about the Trans Canada Highway and it was the first paycheque he received since becoming a monk in the early 1970s. Along with that, Swami has also learned to love the tastes along the side of the road. Dandelion Flower Fritters are one of his favourite. The side of the road provides an incredible amount of vegetation. And it's free, said Swami.
Sights of the highway
Rubber tire pieces are the most common litter to see on the side of the road, followed by disposable coffee cups. Animal life, and death, are also remarkably abundant. Animals tend to use the highways as a toilet. Maybe they are trying to tell us something -- what they think of our highways, said Swami. One day he saw what he thought was just another piece of rubber tire -- until it moved. A medium-sized turtle was trying to make its way across the Trans Canada and Swami took it upon himself to help it.
He stood smack-dab in the middle of the highway, arms outstretched and palms up. Traffic, from both directions, came to a halt. The drivers looked at him quizzically. He pointed excitedly to the turtle. By then the turtle had made it's way into the middle of the road, when it finally decided to look up and take in the scene around him.
What must have seemed like huge metal beasts were being held off by a towering figure in flowing saffron robes. The scene must have been too much for the turtle and it promptly retreated into its shell. The traffic carefully maneuvered around the turtle and when it had cleared, the reptile finally made its way across. That was one of the most exhilarating moments for me, said Swami excitedly.
His journey was inspired one day while picking up a friend from a bus terminal in Toronto -- the city Swami calls home. It was a snowy night in January and he drove past a group of homeless people huddled in a corner by city hall. They had made their bed in the one spot not obscured by snow.
It was just inspirational that someone could take such simplicity and live with it, he said. Simplicity inspired him at the age of 20, when he first decided to join the monastery in Toronto. He grew up a good Catholic boy named John -- the son of Dutch descendants. In high school, he unintentionally turned his back on his spirituality. It was hard to think about religion at the height of the 1960s.
But when he regained a level head, in college, he knew what he wanted to do. When I was alone in college, I thought more about my spirituality, said Swami. When their 20-year-old son approached them with his decision, Swami's parents thought it was a phase.
When I decided to become a Krishna monk, they were concerned, said Swami. But with a new Sanskrit name, ironically meaning path of devotion and 30 years under his belt, Swami is teaching Bhakti-yoga in Toronto and working with youth around the world. Life is like the roads, he said. It's a never-ending journey. We were created with a body. Half of it is leg. This is what it's meant for, said Swami.
© 2003 Rocky View Times
Contact VNN about this storySend this story to a friendThis story URL: http://www.vnn.org/world/WD0310/WD10-8397.html
NEWS DESK | WORLD | TOP
Surf the Web on