Foreword: Padayatra in America is characterized by long stretches of impersonal highways and people are generally living tightly locked up in their homes and cars. The nature of preaching in this country while on padayatra is about connecting with the people who step forward to meet the padayatris. Bhaktimarg Swami beautifully illustrates these warm interactions with people new and familiar to Krsna consciousness in his blog, which you can find at http://thewalkingmonk.blogspot.in/
Here are a few excerpts:
Thursday, May 11th, 2017: Butler, Pennsylvania
Going through customs with our vehicle was more of a breeze than I thought it would be. Our Canadian contingent of monks, consisting of Hayagriva, Marshall and myself, along with Balaram, a Toronto member, arrived at the American Peace Bridge customs gate. We decided a break in Butler, Pennsylvania, would be a good idea. It was here, where Srila Prabhupada, humbly began the whole mission of Krishna Consciousness. When I passed through Butler in the fall of 2015 my support person, Vivasvan from Detroit, met an historian from the Butler Library. He was seniorand a well-read person, but was surprised that Butler, with its one month stay by the swami, before breaking ground in New York, was the actual birth place of this world-wide movement. “You mean it started here?”
“Yes,” replied Vivasvan. “In September of ’65, it all began.”
Sunday, May 14th: Moundsville, West Virginia
By 4:00 p.m., our U.S. Walk was set to begin by making the long journey from Moundsville in West Virginia, by the Jaladuta Express, a “Ford Freestar” van, with navigation by Hayagriva and driven by Marshall. This is my team from Canada. We are going to complete the second half of the U.S. walk from Boston, Massachusetts to San Francisco this summer.
On our way back to the starting point, the three of us discussed planning. We’ll have to check out my Go-Pro for pics, acquire a road atlas for the States—in addition to the oft-times evasive maps found on our cell screen—and a host of other projected duties of support once walking starts.
May 30th: Chappell, Nebraska
The two boys, Hayagriva and Marshall, went to Chappell (population 1000) to chant downtown.Taking a portable harmonium and mrdunga drum in hand, they gave a jolly boisterous performance in procession style around Chappell’s shoppers.
Two women approached the musician monks and one of them held up her hands as Diana Ross of the Supremes would do. (reference: STOP! In the name of love…)
“What are you doing?” Asked the woman. “What’s going on?”
“We’re travelling monks, sharing sacred sound. We are spreading spirituality.”
“What do you mean by spirituality?” she continued.
Hayagriva responded, “Understanding who we are and our relationship with God.”
“That’s the word I was looking for.” She was pacified, felt the devotion from our young men and encouraged them to go up and down every street, singing.
One man saw the boys and asked a similar question and he approved of their answer and agreed to pay for some fruit they could use.
June 5th: Burns, Wyoming
The Cattle and Me
The cattle and I were separated by fence and ditch, but they were following me. Coming down the dusty road was a white pickup with a local farmer behind the wheel. This farmer put the brakes on and momentarily observed the cattle tagging along next to me. The farmer made the turn and proceeded to meet me on the road.
“Simple living. Less cars. 1.25 million people die each year from auto accidents. We could do better. Walk and chant!”
Traffic wasn’t the only challenge; 5:30 am is mosquito hour. Aggressive! Here’s where the big trucks do work in your favour. The strong gusts of wind they stir up send the little pests off. Still, traffic was too much on this road, so we transferred to another highway and entered the state south of us. The Highway 30 which we were on merged into Interstate 80, which is un-walkable. At times we have to ‘jump’ to a parallel road. “Hayagriva, does your GPS tell of an alternative road?” Hayagriva is quick to find one.
June 28th: Summit Hwy 181, Utah
Getting to the Top
It was a bit of a climb by roadway. Some sweat and strain took me to the top of the 9,110 foot elevation. I met Curtis, a Mormon. He was the only person who stopped to talk. He offered water and also The Book of Mormon to tuck under my arm. I suggested he meet my two monk assistants two miles down, he could receive from them one of our Krishna conscious books.
It was Jennifer of Radio Channel X94, a pop music station, who interviewed me today. I was introduced as a Hare Krishna monk. I was happy to hear she has a copy of the Bhagavad-gita at home. She’s also likely to have the book of the Latter Day Saints which Curtis has, and now I do, as well.
August 3rd: Salt Lake City, Utah
I managed to get in a morning interview with Frank and Taylor on KUSA FM 100 radio in Price City. To date, he’s the first radio announcer to ever get my initiated name right. He said it perfectly. Over the air I said, “I’m impressed.”Frank asked about me.
“Well, I became a monk in 1973.”
“That’s before I was born.”
“When you were in another body,” I added.
August 26th, 2017: Cold Springs, Nevada
The traffic of vacationers begins. For me some attention comes. People wave, honk or stop. Over pulls a young woman from Oklahoma. She walks with me a bit. A vehicle from New York with two couples comes to a halt. “Can we help?” “Just walking—across the U.S.”
A local rancher, asked Marshall, if all is okay.
“So you’re just going for a walk?”
“I’m supporting the monk,” says Marshall.
“Monk!?” mentioned the fellow, shocked.
September 1st: Carson City, Nevada
A biker pulled over on Highway 50. Seeing my drooping dhoti, he could not see my feet while walking, and thought I was barefoot, so he stopped out of concern. “I’m Freddy, Fast Freddy. Call me FF. I’m a musician, originally from New York. I thought you might need some help.”
I also came in contact with a local. Wolf is his name. He offered a ride, but as usual, I had to decline. With both new friends, we got to talking about spirituality and humility. “Spirituality is what the ego likes the least,” said FF.
Also a lady stopped, in the thick of traffic, and presented me with some water. “It’s great what you’re doin’! Jesus. I love you. Amen!”
Some nurses, from the University Of Nevada School Of Nursing, saw me in my robes, walking along with Marshall. “Can we interview you?” There by the roadside, the question came, “What are you doing?”
September 4th: Kit Carson, California
I met a man today who has read the Bhagavad-gita. He loves it. He also asked what I get out of all the walking.“Humility, appreciation for nature and life. And seeing that Krishna is in all things. Let’s say, I’m going in that direction.”
I met Ted from Idaho. He’s a musician, a singer, a guitarist. He told me he’d write a song about our meeting.
One man, collecting firewood, noticed me. “Hey, I like those clothes. Are they comfortable? … I’m a Satanist, by the way. I also adore Shiva, Lord of destruction. When the world goes, he’ll come to dance.”
September 5th: Pioneer, California
One motorist, Randy, saw me on Monday. Then he saw me again. “Did you go all night? Here!” He handed me some water and a bag of trail mix.
Another vehicle slowed down and came to a halt. It’s a couple. “Is everything alright? Do you need water?”
“Surely!” They give.
“It helps.” They give $30.
“Some herbs?” Something I’m supposed to smoke.
“I’ll decline. Thanks!”
I met a rare walker, shirtless, a couple of marks on the arm, and tattoos; the young guy is immersed in his mobile device. We shake hands.“Here’s a mantra.”
I see a blue bird going from tree to tree. I see and hear two dozen head of cattle, each one wearing a cow bell. It’s nice.
September 6th: Jackson, California
A message went out on Facebook that I was in town and so the response from people driving along was phenomenal. What really lit up our day was our evening program. For our morning jaunt, we noticed the sign “Dance” for a yoga studio in a plaza. I suggested to Hayagriva that he should contact the shop. Patti answered the phone. On the same day, she managed to interest twenty people, including a family with two young sons, in our kirtan, on top of her usual “gonging” for the full moo
September 7th : Linden, California
Brian from The Linden Herald came in a cowboy hat when we met at the Common Grounds Café in Valley Springs. The interview was terrific. He told me he’s inspired to walk more.
We met John, a retired mathematician. We asked about the location of the town’s park.“There’snothing like that, but you can use my front shaded yard. There’re chairs. Use my kitchen. Stay overnight. I’ll get you something from the store. Ah, I forgot my wallet. Old age!”
September 8th : Stockton, California
“I heard from my daughter, here, of what you’re doing. Congratulations!” Handshakes with the tall happy man and his daughter.“How do you maintain yourself or survive on the road coming all the way from New York?” he continued. “I have a small support team consisting of two younger monks. People offer water, donations and I confess to sometimes helping myself to the grapes in the vineyards around here.” I replied.
“Well, this is my land, my grapes (he points). You can have all the grapes you want. Here’s a donation (40 bucks). I don’t have any water.” Off father and daughter went.
It was in the afternoon that we were engaged with some kids, age six to ten, at the Hub Center in Jackson. Hayagriva had lined up this engagement where I told stories of animal encounters along the road. I also introduced mantra meditation. It calmed them somewhat; they were wired up. I took them through some warm ups with voice exercise, and to the beat of the drum, with Marshall on kartals, we got everyone to dance. Nice session!
September 15th : San Francisco, California
After a sensational trek over the Golden Gate Bridge, the last few steps on Irving Street to the Pacific were accomplished. My dear friends, Vaisesika and Nirakula from San Jose, also came to join us for the last four miles from Masonic and Page to Irving and the Lower Great Highway, the path of the original Jagannatha Fest a half century ago. https://youtu.be/pjn7c1uqhkU
When finally we pressed footprints in the sand to beeline our way to the ocean’s waters and offer our obeisances to that beautiful body of salt water, we took the opportunity to reflect on all the highlights of a collective six month trek. It was a total of 3,550 miles or 5,713 kilometres.
The U.S. walk entailed spanning—and in some cases edging a corner of a state such as Michigan and Wyoming—the balance of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California and Hawaii. It also included a walk-through, at the pivotal juncture, Butler, Pennsylvania, where our guru, Prabhupada, spent an entire month in the city of his sponsors, Gopal and Sally Agarwal, before registering his cherished ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in 1966.
We hope that Prabhupada is pleased with the walking endeavour—a pilgrimage, a padayatra. I hope Krishna’s smile is broad. Maybe Uncle Sam is also delighted that some seeds of bhakti have been planted along the way.
May the Source be with you!