The Walking Monk


The Walking Monk Retraces Prabhupada’s Journey

w h o   i s   t h e   w a l k i n g   m o n k ?
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Born in 1952 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, Bhaktimarga Swami (formerly John Peter Vis) adopted the monastic lifestyle of the Hare Krishna order in 1973.  Globally known for his “Canwalk” marathons, he achieved the remarkable feat of walking across the entire length of Canada from the west to east coast in 1996 which was detailed in the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary, “The Longest Road”.  Bhaktimarga Swami repeated the feat again in 2003 (this time from east to west), and yet again a third time (west to east) in 2007.

Believe it or not, The Walking Monk recently finished his FOURTH trek across Canada in the summer of 2014 (Canwalk 4) which began in the spring of 2012.  With this "friend-raiser", he is once again promoted pilgrimage and a more car-free, care-free lifestyle.  In addition to Canada he has also walked across the countries of Ireland, Israel, Fiji Islands, Mauritius, Trinidad and Guyana.

Bhaktimarga Swami is a member of ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) founded by his teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and is the GBC (Governing Body Commissioner) for ISKCON Canada.

In addition to marathon walking and administrative duties, Bhaktimarga Swami is an instructor of Bhakti Yoga (devotion to the Divine) and mantra meditation.  He is also a playwright, producer and director of live avant garde “morality theatre”, whose captivating works based on tales from ancient India are performed regularly across the globe. In his productions, The Walking Monk regularly engages youth from the global communities he visits in this “enter-lightenment” designed to uplift the spirit.

Bhaktimarga Swami has become famous as “The Walking Monk” from his treks on foot four times across his native Canada, as well as across Ireland, Israel, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana and Trinidad. On each walk, he shares his message of reconnecting to a simple, natural, and God-conscious life with the media and locals along the way.

The Swami’s current walk, however, may mean the most to him on a personal level. Dubbed “Walking for our Teachers,” its theme is to honor all teachers in a broad sense—but in a more specific sense, Bhaktimarga’s own guru.

“Personally, we’re walking to honor ISKCON’s Founder-Acarya Srila Prabhupada, who was at the cutting edge of animal rights, vegetarianism, going back to the land, and of course spiritual enlightment,” he says. “People know the Hare Krishnas, but they don’t know about the person behind it all. So I feel it’s our mandate now to let people know who Prabhupada was.”

Bhaktimarga Swami’s walk began on September 20th at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier, where Srila Prabhupada first reached the U.S. on the steamship Jaladuta in 1965.
About to set off from Boston's Commonwealth Pier
About to set off from Boston's Commonwealth Pier
His trek will see him celebrate the 50th anniversary of that event by retracing Prabhupada’s journey from Boston to Butler, Pennsylvania, where he stayed with sponsors the Agarwal family, and then on to New York City, where he registered ISKCON in 1966.

The walk will last 45 days in total and cover 907 miles – about 20 per day.

Along the way Bhaktimarga is meeting with people and holding programs to share his message and his “Tales from the Trails.” Some meetings are organized events, others are more impromptu – every day’s an adventure on the road.

In Hopkinton, Massachussets, he was invited to contribute to a “Dancing for Our Aging Population” class at the Veterans Memorial Gazebo, and led seniors from the Golden Pond Assisted Living Center in Srila Prabhupada’s classic “Swami Step.”

At Namaste 919 yoga studio in Old Forge, PA
At Namaste 919 yoga studio in Old Forge, PA
In Hartford, Connecticut, he gently reminded attendees at a Hindu community event of the importance of Sanatan Dharma and fulfilling the spiritual side of life, to a grateful reception.

At Brown University in Rhode Island, he led a group of students in a guided mantra meditation session with his trademark engaging style, getting them to harmonize in “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya” and chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra while clapping along.

At Nimai’s Bliss Kitchen in Newburgh, New York, Bhaktimarga Swami shared his Tales from the Trailes and also spoke at length with Newburgh Mayor Judith Kennedy, discussing spiritual solutions to the social problems of today.

“She participated in our kirtan, and danced and chanted with us like anything,” he says. “It was very heartwarming to spend some time with a political figure like that.”

And at the Namaste 919 yoga studio in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, Bhaktimarga spoke to seventy people about the importance of pilgrimage and the philosophy of Bhakti, and led them in chanting the Lord’s names.

“There was even a nun in full habit regalia who danced in our kirtan circle in ecstasy,” he grins.

Bhaktimarga Swami and Vivasvan Das, who has been accompanying him on his journey, also meet many interesting people while on the road.
Talking with an interested runner
Talking with an interested runner
Tre’von, the number one salesperson in a Hartford clothing store, met Bhaktimarga Swami while visiting the temple for the first time, and was so inspired by his project that he took two months off of work to join the walk and get guidance in Krishna consciousness along the way.

One runner who came across the group during a picnic break introduced himself and said he was a retired professor who was now researching UFO experiences. He was intrigued to hear that the Vedic literature gives detailed accounts of other planets and their highly evolved resident beings, and left with some of Prabhupada’s books and a set of japa meditation beads.

Bhaktimarga Swami also meets with devotee congregational groups, and devotees who have not attended temples in many years, reconnecting with them, “planting some seeds and getting some seeds planted in me too.”
Speaking at a Hindu community event
Speaking at a Hindu community event
The rest of his walk will include visits to ISKCON temples in Harrisburg, New Vrindaban (West Virginia), and possibly Gita-Nagari, Pennsyvlania. He also wants to hold programs at elementary schools, where he’s had tremendous success in Canada.

The big event, though, is on October 24th, when Bhaktimarga Swami will reach Butler, Pennyslvania, and attend a banquet program with Gopal and Sally Agarwal, who sponsored Srila Prabhupada for a month in 1965. The event will also include Harinama Sankirtan in Butler with devotees from around the country.

And the walk will culminate in New York City, where Bhaktimarga will visit 26 2nd Avenue, home to the first ever ISKCON temple, and hold kirtan under the elm tree at Tompkins Square Park where Prabhupada held the first ever public kirtan in the Western World.
Getting interviewed for a local Massachusetts TV station
Getting interviewed for a local Massachusetts TV station
Throughout his journey, Bhaktimarga Swami is talking to local newspapers and TV channels, spreading the word about ISKCON’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations, and of course about Srila Prabhupada.

“We have to understand that anyone who comes along and makes such major changes in peoples’ lives is not an ordinary person,” he says.

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