An Argentine Article
The following is an article that appeared in the Argentine Magazine, "El Clarin", by Luis Aubelle. Translation by Ananda Buddhi.
“I Wanted To Go Out For A Walk”
In Buenos Aires for a visit, The Walking Monk tells how long walks can lead to the Divine. He is back from a journey of over 5,000 miles during which he walked from the East coast to the West coast of Canada.
“I felt I was under the influence of rahu – in Vedic astrology, a particularly gloomy planet, full of rage. At first, I sought refuge in an ashram, a large community of monks in Canada, and from observing this religious order and following their ways, my need to live another way, to find my spiritual horizon, was born,” recollects Bhaktimarga Swami, “The Walking Monk”, the walking Hare Krishna monk who arrived in Buenos Aires after completing his fourth journey walking across Canada, over 5,000 miles from East to West.
“Why walk? The very same monks gave me the idea. They would take long hikes on dirt roads to purify themselves, to meet people, and to grow closer to others. But there was a second motive: 1996 was speeding by, and it was the 100th anniversary of the birth of my teacher, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who had been born in Calcutta, India, on September 1st, 1896.
Bhaktivedanta Swami passed away in November of 1977, and I wanted to remember him by offering him my heart and my feet, that is the reason for the walking. It was an enriching experience which gave me the opportunity to grow closer to the Divine. To suffer the consequences of being exposed to snow, to cold, then to heat and mosquitos, I began to practice detachment from worldly affairs. Besides, I thought my trips would be a good example for the people. Imagine a monk impervious to the fury of the elements, tirelessly crossing the Canadian landscape.”
Bhaktimarga Swami, John Peter Vis, his original name, was born on October 5th, 1952 near Toronto, Canada. He met monks on the campus of the university where he was studying Fine Arts, they put him in contact with the one who would be his teacher, Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna movement, and of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), and most important, translator of classic works such as the Bhagavad-Gita.
Bhaktimarga followed the footsteps of his teacher and is in actuality, a leader in the movement. Also, an instructor of bhakti yoga and interactive dance, and a kirtan leader, or yogic singing. He is world renowned as author and director of theatrical morality plays within his community.
How do you see the world today?
“I see a polarized world. On one side, anguish; confused people, struggling with apparently unresolvable issues in their lives. An uncertain horizon where the family unit has been severed, and the moral values that guided life have been lost. A great internal growing void is created as a consequence, and many try to fill it with alcohol, drugs, or other forms of escape without avail. But on the other side, I see many persons that are widening their spiritual horizons. Folks who seek and find the light and that is really exciting! United States author, Mark Twain, who had been in India, used to say that East was East and West was West. And that never the two would meet, but I believe he was wrong.”
What is your idea?
“I think that both cultures can learn from each other. To recapture that deep and liberating concept that says that I am not this body. That I am my soul, the spirit that is inside my body. When the recovery of these principles is achieved, we are ready to obtain deeper and long lasting relations. To obtain peace, solidarity, the joy of living. To discover superior levels where obstacles can be resolved to begin anew. The wise men of India have, for many centuries, concluded that in order to remedy social ills, people had to find places to gather, to converse, dance, sing, and also exchange food prepared with love.”
What exercise can a common man do to draw one close to the Divine?
“I walk 7 to 8 hours on a daily basis, but this is an extreme. The truth behind walking is to use it as a means to seek the Divine. We begin our journey by looking all around us trying to discover the sacred in everything we meet on our path. Then, bit by bit, the landscape transforms, time seems to stand still, and slowly we begin to construct a world whose main protagonist is the Divine,” concludes The Walking Monk.
Geniuses, giants, and Aladdin’s lamp…
Mark Twain visited India between January and April of 1896. The following are a few of his remarks written in his diary of the journey: “India, land of dreams and of romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and of rags, of palaces and huts, of hunger, pestilence, of geniuses, giants, and Aladdin’s lamp. Of tigers and elephants, of the cobra and the jungle. The country with hundreds of countries and hundreds of languages, of thousands of religions and of two million gods. Cradle of the human race, birthplace of human language, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great grandmother of tradition…”
May the Source be with you!