Toronto’s Walking Monk

Bhaktimarga Swami prepares for his fifth walk across Canada

Bhaktimarga Swami, also known as The Walking Monk, making his way across the Toronto Hare Krishna Temple on November 22, 2018.  DOHA HANNO/TORONTO OBSERVER

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 six-kilometer trek in Argentina and is currently preparing to walk the 890 kilometer-long Bruce Trail in southern Ontario.

See some of Bhaktimarga Swami’s latest Facebook posts from Argentina:

Bhaktimarga Swami 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. November 22. Toronto Hare Krishna Temple.

Bhaktimarga Swami at the Toronto Hare Krishna Temple on November 22, 2018.  (Doha HANNO/TORONTO OBSERVER)

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 the countries of Ireland, Israel,  Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana and the islands of Fiji.

Bhaktimarga Swami keeps a tight routine when it comes to his journeys. 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 aged 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.

The driver of the van often leapfrogs The Walking Monk by driving three miles ahead, parking, and walking back to join the others for part of the walk. Every three miles (about a one hour hike), the van pulls ahead. After covering a second three miles, Bhaktimarga Swami stops for a brief rest. After nine miles, it’s time for breakfast. They continue, mile after mile, day after day and state after state until they reach their target destination—except for when The Walking Monk crossed the desert. There were a few times they walked all night long to avoid the excessive daytime heat.

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:

Formerly, John Peter Vis, Bhaktimarga Swami became a monk of the Hare Krishna order in 1973 when he was 22. He is currently 65-years-old. His first major encounter with devotees was in Toronto, at the college campus where he studied fine arts. He invited them to his apartment for an overnight stay where they shared some insight on the Hare Krishna movement. Without delay, he gave up old habits, went to the Hare Krishna Temple and never left. Prior to becoming a monk, he did chores on his family’s farm in Chatham, Ontario.

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. When he isn’t walking, he resides at the Toronto Hare Krishna Temple and works on other projects. Not 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.

Watch one of Bhaktimarga Swami’s dramas:

Images from the Toronto Hare Krishna temple: 

More information about the Toronto Hare Krishna Temple and The Walking Monk:

The Toronto Hare Krishna Temple is owned by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Hindu religious organization founded in 1966 by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. ISKCON, otherwise known as the Hare Krishna movement, owns over 500 international temples, centres and rural communities. The temple is managed by Kubina.

You can find more information about the Hare Krishna movement and ISKCON by clicking here.

You can find more information about The Walking Monk and his philosophy by clicking here. You can also keep up with Swami’s latest walks and adventures by liking his Facebook page The Walking Monk.

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Posted: Jan 10 2019 10:00 am
Filed under: Features