Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Swami Plans Walk to Key Areas of ISKCON’s History for Society’s 50th
By Madhava Smullen   |  Apr 04, 2014

Intrepid ISKCON Guru and GBC Bhaktimarga Swami, known colloquially as “The Walking Monk,” is planning his next big adventure.

The Swami has already trekked across his native Canada three times, and has walked in Ireland, Israel, Guyana, Trinidad, Fiji and Mauritius, promoting spiritual thought and healthy living.

He is currently completing his fourth Canada walk, which covers nearly 4,500 miles, in sections. He began at St John’s, Newfoundland in 2012, and will complete the walk this summer when he arrives at Victoria on Vancouver Island.

But after that, Bhaktimarga Swami will do something a little different – his first walk in the United States. Rather than his usual broad message of spirituality, this walk will specifically promote the 50th anniversary of  ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the US.

Bhaktimarg Swami crossing a beautiful forest

Bhaktimarga will begin his trek in September 2015 at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier, where Srila Prabhupada first arrived in the United States on September 17th, 1965 from Calcutta.

He will then walk from Boston to Butler, Pennsylvania, where Srila Prabhupada was sponsored by Gopal and Sally Agarwal and stayed for about a month before making his way to New York City.

“I’ll try to find the nice, pedestrian-friendly roads and highways to walk,” says Bhaktimarga Swami. “In Butler, I’m hoping to meet with the Agarwal family, and have some satsangs, or spiritual gatherings, with them and other friends of Krishna.”

Bhaktimarga also hopes to visit the YMCA where Srila Prabhupada stayed and worked on his Srimad-Bhagavatam, in between walking to the Agarwals’ for meals. Although no longer a YMCA, it’s still in use as a gymnasium.

“I’m sure when we tell the people there that the founder of the Hare Krishnas stayed there, they’ll be tickled pink!” Bhaktimarga grins.

People often stop him on the way to ask questions

From Butler, Bhaktimarga will make his way to New York City, where of course Srila Prabhupada started ISKCON. There, he’ll visit 26 2nd Ave, home to the first ever ISKCON temple, and Tompkins Square Park, where Srila Prabhupada held his first kirtan, and where there is a tree with a plaque dedicated to the ISKCON founder.

The entire walk will take a month and a half to two months, and will not be on major highways but will take Bhaktimarga Swami along a more scenic route through small towns.

As usual on his walks, he’ll be followed by Daruka Das, who will drive a car containing their clothes and camping equipment. At night, they’ll camp out or stay with devotees along the way.

Meanwhile at each town, Daruka, an expert at creating media interest, will arrive ahead of Bhaktimarga Swami, intriguing people with his Amazonian parrot and securing media interviews.

Bhaktimarg Swami in the company of Daruka Das and the Amazonian parrot

This, they hope, will result in plenty of newspaper articles and radio interviews about the great guru behind the Hare Krishna Movement. It’s also likely to result in programs at public libraries or at people’s homes, which will be attended by both devotees from the area and local members of the general public.

Bhaktimarga Swami’s hope is that rather than being the main speaker for these events, as he usually is on his Canada walks, he will simply be the facilitator for more senior Prabhupada disciples, such as Pradyumna Das and Malati Dasi, to speak about the Srila Prabhupada and the early days of ISKCON.

The following year, 2016, will be the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s registering ISKCON in New York City in 1966, and a full year of celebrations all over the ISKCON world.

For his part, Bhaktimarga Swami will embark on yet another walk, this time from New York to San Francisco, following the path ISKCON took when it first spread out from the East Coast to the West Coast of the US.

Getting interviewed

An even more epic trek, this will begin in mid April or early May and last a full six months, taking Bhaktimarga down the nostalgic Route 66, one of the most famous roads in America.

Along the way, he will vist large cities and small towns, and in San Francisco, he’ll go to Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill, where Srila Prabhupada famously led kirtan with the devotees and a large Deity of Lord Jagannath sitting beside him.

“What’s interesting is that everybody knows the Hare Krishna Movement, but very few people know of Srila Prabhupada, the engine behind it,” Bhaktimarga Swami says. “So these walks will be a golden opportunity to let people know about this small man – he stood just 5’5” – who affected such a big change in consciousness in the US, which was leading the world at the time.”

“He was very much at the cutting edge,” Bhaktimarga continues. “He was the first person to overtly teach the science of reincarnation, to promote a vegetarian, karma-free diet, to introduce kirtan, and to teach Bhakti-yoga, all things that are becoming mainstream right now. And I think that people need to know him, the bold forerunner of all of this.” 

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