Bhaktimarga Swami, popularly known as The Walking Monk, promotes pilgrimage and has walked across Canada four times, the U.S. once and a few other countries—that’s more than Terry Fox!
He just returned from a 36-kilometre trek in Argentina and is currently preparing to walk the 890 kilometre-long Bruce Trail in southern Ontario.
See some of Bhaktimarga Swami’s latest Facebook posts from Argentina:
Bhaktimarga Swami, 66, plans to walk along Ontario’s Bruce Trail, the oldest footpath in Canada. It goes all the way from the Niagara River to Tobermory, which is in the Bruce Peninsula.
“It takes a little time and it’s more of a hike than a pleasure walk. It’s going to be challenging in spots but I love it, just love it,” he said.
Bhaktimarga Swami walks in order to exercise, connect with nature, meet new people, experience new places, promote a more carefree/car-free lifestyle and share his knowledge and spirituality. His walks are not-for-profit and he funds his travels himself.
According to Bhaktimarga Swami, “It’s not a fund-raiser, it’s a friend-raiser”.
Bhaktimarga Swami started as a marathon walker in 1966 to honour the centennial year of his guru, an Indian Hindu spiritual teacher known to his followers as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. After walking across Canada from coast to coast for the first time, Bhaktimarga Swami was hooked. In addition to walking across Canada four times and the U.S. once, he’s walked across Ireland, Israel, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana and the islands of Fiji.
According to an article byfor ISKCON’s website, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Four Days with The Walking Monk, the Swami has a “tight routine”.
“He and his two-man support team of Hayagriva Dasa and Bhakti Marshall (both from Canada) rise daily by 3 a.m. They shower, pack up, and drive their old Ford minivan from wherever they spent the night, back to where they ended their walk the day before. They employ landmarks, their odometer, and occasionally a GPS to find the exact spot. After a brief in-transit Mangal Aarti (worship) and Bhagavad-Gita (scripture) reading on the way to the launch spot, they hit the road, sidewalk or trail by 4:30 a.m.”
Bhaktimarga Swami can spend about nine hours walking 45 kilometers every day for months at a time until he completes his walks. He carries a sack full of meditation beads and often chants along the way.
Listen to The Walking Monk chant as he journeys through Gita Nagari, a 350-acre farm located in Port Royal, Pennsylvania:
Born John Peter Vis on a farm in Chatham, Ontario. the monk encountered the Hare Krishna movement in Toronto, in 1973, where he was studying fine arts. Now he is based permanently at the city’s Hare Krishna Temple.
According to his official biography on the ISKON website, “mot only is he an instructor of Bhakti Yoga, mantra meditation and interactive dance, but he is also an internationally renowned producer, director and playwright of a live avant-garde ‘morality theatre’, whose captivating works based on tales of ancient India are performed regularly across the globe.”
His guru gave him the Sanskrit (a language of ancient India) name, Bhaktimarga Swami, and it means “The path of devotion”. According to Bhaktimarga Swami, the name fits in perfectly with his avid promotion of walking. He says he’s always enjoyed walking, even before he became a monk.
Watch a mini-doc about The Walking Monk:
According to Bhaktimarga Swami’s assistant, Billy Kubina, Bhaktimarga Swami has a duty as a monk. It’s his job to travel and share Vedic (a large body of religious Indian texts) knowledge and literature with people around the world. He speaks at some of the biggest temples around the world amongst some of the most highly educated devotees, monks and spiritual students. Kubina isn’t a monk, however, he manages the Toronto Hare Krishna Temple.
Kubina says that Bhaktimarga Swami has a special talent when it comes to sharing his spiritual mastery.
“He can really shake things up and deliver spiritual knowledge to people in the form of plays as well as by traveling on foot as The Walking Monk.”
Bhaktimarga Swami spends up to eight hours a day walking around Toronto, training for his bigger walks.
Watch one of Bhaktimarga Swami’s dramas:
Images from the Toronto Hare Krishna temple: