Bhaktimarga Swami Reprises his Cross Canada Walk
BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT
May 11, CANADA (SUN) Canwalk 2006 - Bhaktimarga Swami Reprises his Cross Canada Walk for Spiritual Healing
He's at it once again! Bhaktimarga Swami, 53, a Canadian born monk, or sannyasi, of the Hare Krishna religion, is endeavouring on his second cross-Canada walk, seeking to get in touch with his own personal and spiritual roots -- and to underscore the need for fellow Canadians to stay in touch with their own spirituality. He calls it, "a spiritual healing walk for Canada."
"This is my return journey," says Bhaktimarga Swami in connection to his adventurous first cross-Canada walk taken in 1996. That year, he blazed a trail from the west coast to the east, walking primarily along the Trans-Canada Highway from British Columbia to Newfoundland. In 2006, he's determined to do it again, but this time he's going the other direction -- from the east coast to the west.
As a monk of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), better known as the Hare Krishnas, a devotional religion within Hindu culture, the Swami wears saffron-coloured robes and sports a clean-shaven head worn by Krishna adherents. Those features make him a curiosity for passersby in this huge and sometimes conservative country. They certainly did in 1996 when, in 210 days, he covered 8,500 km and wore out four pairs of running shoes.
"There is a reason for this walking fever," says Swami. "The point is about peace and awareness. I love this country, but I am concerned. We are big-time consumers and suffer terrible problems within our families. We are set in superficial coziness. We can do better." The monk says that Canadians should consider revisiting our spiritual roots and gain a better balance between matter and spirit.
There is one additional, more personal, purpose for the big trek, Swami says. "When I turned fifty, apart from the great physical workout I get and all the friends I make from truckers to bikers to hitchhikers, I wanted to celebrate the half-century mark in a unique way," he says. It's no wonder that the golden figure 50 is significant to him. The 5,000 year-old Indian tradition he adopted in the early 1970's espouses that when you turn fifty you downscale, simplify and learn gradual detachment. While walking, Bhaktimarga Swami is celebrating his walk with meditation, prayer and song for approximately forty kilometers a day.
His walk is indeed a walk, without road assistance in road transportation across the country. Traveling with him are two companions in a support vehicle to help with supplies, communications and a healthy vegetarian diet. All he asks of motorists when they see him is for a honk and a wave. Or, better still, pull over for a friendly chat! If you have some time to join him for a few minutes on foot, he would consider it an honour.
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A Bio/Sketch of Bhaktimarga Swami
It was a youthful quest for life over thirty years ago that lead Chatham, Ontario born Bhaktimarga Swami, 53, (formerly John Peter Vis), to adopt an Eastern order of monastic life and land him in the Hare Krishna movement. Since that time, as a celibate monk, Swami has evolved as an instructor of bhakti-yoga and mantra meditation. His presentation on this subject of life, based on the popular Hindu text, “Bhagavad-gita” is lively, candid and informative.
With fine arts as a background, Swami also developed a passion for the performing arts. Even in the course of his duties as a monk, he expands his portfolio and manages to take an active role in theatrical productions from epics of ancient Indian origin. Casting, scripting, and directing morality theatre takes him annually to venues from North America to India and Africa.
Finally, a remarkable achievement came to Bhaktimarga Swami when in 1996 he went the way of a pilgrim and walked on foot cross country from west to east and then back for a return journey from Cape Spear Newfoundland to Vancouver Island in 2003, going full circle. He likes to tell of the unique experience and fond memories on the road after treking 16,000 kms.”The Longest Road” etailing the history of the people who shaped or were shaped by the Trans Canada Highway, the world’s longest continuous maintained road.
It’s my third time walking the whole length of Canada. It’s a total of 7,800 kilometres from coast to coast each time, once in ’96 and then again in 2003. Yes, it’s a big country. Some people are wondering why the big obsession for trekking this distance?
The reasons are also three-fold. Partly because I have a passion for nature’s aesthetics that are so abound in our country; partly because it’s a good workout (I could use some trimming down in the mid-rib region at age 53) and partly it’s because I’m on a pilgrimage. This last one I’ll explain.
The walk through it’s moments of strain aids in my own personal growth. The unpredictable weather helps with tolerance and connecting with folks along the way like the rare pedestrian and the more frequent motorist that stops to talk softens me a little. So it’s personal growth.
I guess some people find my clothes interesting. Robes is what they actually are-the traditional garb of a monk. As everything has to start from somewhere my adopted tradition hails from India. I became attracted to this lifestyle and enrolled as a monk in the Hare Krishna movement back in ’73 when it was hip to be radical, daring and different. I admit that being a monk is not everyone’s calling but it is mine.
While I’m comfortable with the vocation, it’s not my intention to ask you to see things my way. Although I would encourage a visitation to a path that enriches your life. Perhaps you are already treading a path (of spiritualism). Great! Do reinforce it! Let’s celebrate our diverse approaches!
I do believe that collectively working on our inner strengths does heal a society that socially beckons for improvement. Let’s face it, there are a lot of lonely people out there. And then there are those who’s relationships are tottering, constantly at the brink of decay due to lack of deep commitment. Some of us tend to brush off each other so easily at the slightest provocation. There appears to be a vacuum of virtues. So I have come to believe that there are spiritual solutions to material problems.
For me walking on the road while meditating and communicating with other travellers is an attempt, a third time around, at seeking inspiration from people in this fantastic country we call Canada, while trying to return the favour.
I leave you with these suggested courses of action to challenge what I identify as our culprit, rat-racism, our modern day crisis:
“More walking, less squawking. More praying, less braying”.
For more information about the Cross Canada Walk: http://www.canwalk2006.com/