ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 04/19/2015
Mission Statement: ECO-Vrindaban promotes Simple Living, Cow Protection, Engaging Oxen, Local Agriculture, and above all, Loving Krishna, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON New Vrindaban.
Participating Directors: Anuttama, Bhima, Chaitanya Mangala, Kripamaya, and Ranaka.
Participating Advisors: Sri Tulasi Manjari
Participating Managers: Mukunda
Recording secretary: Jordanna
1. Ox Program and Garden Managers Search
The Garden Manager search announcement went out last week and the Ox Program Manager listing will be posted this week. Madhava Smullen will write an article about the positions, as well. There has already been some interest in the Garden Manager position and the Board Members look forward reviewing potential candidates for both roles.
2. Managers’ Housing
Vyasasan reports that the Prabhupada House (formerly known as the Green House) renovations are slated to be completed in about two weeks, in time for Mukunda’s relocation.
3. ECO-V Forest Preservation Policy
There is concern that trees have been cut down without permission on ECO-V managed land. Kripamaya and Mukunda will look into the issue and make recommendations to the Board.
4. Addition of a Timekeeper to ECO-V Meetings
The ECO-V Board will be adding a Timekeeper to their meetings as a way to make them more concise and efficient. Mukunda prabhu has volunteered to take on this role. He will work with the Board Chair and Secretary to allot a specific amount of time for each agenda item.
5. Village Council
A “Steering Committee” has been organized in order to form a New Vrindaban Village Council, consisting of Ananga Manjari, Advaita, Devala, Jaya Krsna (Gopisa as proxy), Mukunda (Ranaka as proxy), Nityodita and Vyasasan. They will be meeting this Tuesday. Mukunda will begin attending meetings once he is living in New Vrindaban.
6. Flower Garden Crew
Currently Vidya is working in the flower gardens, along with the help of a few volunteers. Jaya Krsna requested additional assistance for this volunteer crew. Mukunda will help with this once he is settled in New Vrindaban.
By Madhava Smullen
ISKCON New Vrindaban and Eco-Vrindaban’s latest Department Head reports, on March 14th, showed that devotees were continuing to cooperate together with encouraging progress towards crystallizing Srila Prabhupada’s vision.
Co-GBC and MC for the day Anuttama Das introduced the event, explaining that since 2011, INV and ECO-V’s Boards of Directors and their managers and staff have gathered to communicate accomplishments of the past year and plans for the upcoming one.
But two years ago, they decided to make the gatherings open for all New Vrindaban residents and well-wishers to participate in. Sure enough, a sizeable group of residents were present, including longtime resident Varshana Swami, who offered a beautiful invocation that set the mood and intent for the weekend.
New ECO-V chairman Bhima Walker then introduced ECO-V’s department heads, beginning with interim Flower Garden manager Vidya Dasi. Vidya’s plans for the year included maintaining all the flower gardens; giving guests the experience of picking flowers and making garlands for Krishna; and creating an inviting atmosphere by adding benches, garden art and well-designed flower beds to the front of the temple.
Next, Ananda Vidya Das and his wife Lalita Gopi Dasi from Cow Care and Milking described how they get 30 gallons a day from their seven milking cows – enough for all the temple’s needs — and supply the Deity kitchen with butter, ghee, yoghurt and curd. They reported high standards of cow care, announced that two new calves were expected soon, and were glad that the milking barn’s ceiling had been insulated to make winters serving there easier.
Brand new ECO-V Project Manager Mukunda Das, who will be moving to New Vrindaban in May, said that initial teams had already been but together to discuss plans for an eco-village and food processing facility; and that he would be working on eco-friendly housing beginning with one demonstration home.
Bhakta Richard of the Ox Program reported that the three young teams of Isan and Balarama, Hari and Priya, and Manu and Nandi are all making great progress in training with the yoke and learning commands. In addition, oxen moved into the rebuilt Bahulaban ox barn at the end of last year; ox cart designs have been presented by carpenter Vyasasana Das; and a turnstyle that can run a saw or mill with ox power has been acquired.
Gopal’s Garden, the homeschool co-op run by Ruci Dasi, reported a new preschool for two to four-year-olds, a fundraising drive for improving its playground, and input from many members of the community. Proving that it does indeed take a village to raise a child, they teach such subjects as dramatic reading, literature, poetry, Deity worship, kirtan, art, and music. The school also has a charming new logo featuring youthful Krishna playing His flute.
ISKCON New Vrindaban community president Jaya Krishna Das then introduced INV by sharing its new mission statement: “To please Srila Prabhupada by promoting his vision for New Vrindaban through steady development of Simple Living, Holy Pilgrimage, Community Outreach, Spiritual Education, and, above all, Loving Krishna.”
Local brahmachari Bhakta Trevor with Community Outreach was first up for INV. He reported that he maintains regular Harinam Sankirtan and book distribution in Wheeling and Pittsburgh; is starting home programs in Morgantown; and plans to start a Krishna Club at West Virginia University, where students are already chanting. He also holds a weekly kirtan at Wheeling’s new age store The Noble Source, where the owner chants and keeps Prabhupada’s books. He has done all this, he said, through making friends and building loving relationships.
The super-busy Vrindavan Das reported on the three departments he oversees, beginning with Communications, in which he talked about making friendships with locals and students; inviting the Mayor of Wheeling and Moundsville City manager to Festival of Colors and Rathayatra; developing an attractive monthly newsletter; and having regular articles published on ISKCON News, Dandavats, Brijabasi Spirit, and also in the secular media.
In Marketing, Vrindavan outlined plans to launch New Vrindaban’s new website this year, and create an attention-grabbing brochure for the Palace of Gold and New Vrindaban which will be placed in visitors bureaus, local tourist attractions, and hotels. He also plans to place permanent billboards on two major highways to promote the Palace of Gold by mid May this year.
In Festivals, he said he planned to make national events of Nrsimha Chaturdasi and of Srila Prabhupada’s Appearance and Disappearance Days at his Palace. He also talked about plans to hold an early July retreat this year with Bhakti Charu Swami; open Rathayatra at New Vrindaban to the Ohio Valley public; and replicate Prabhupada’s Bhagavat Dharma Discourses. He also hoped to enhance national participation in Kartik, the 24 Hour Kirtans, Festival of Colors, and Festival of Inspiration, which expects a bigger crowd this year with Jayapataka Swami attending.
In an encouraging step towards succession, a father and son team presented next. Guest Lodge manager Gaura Bhakta reduced prices for rooms and cabins, and plans to install lights to guide guests to the Welcome Center at night. He also hopes to increase guest visits during weekdays; and to have four new rooms with attached bathrooms on the ground floor by this year’s Festival of Inspiration.
His father Vasudeva Das plans to keep Govinda’s Restaurant open longer each year, from March 28th to January 2nd, to launch a new webpage for it, and to add new uniforms and name tags for staff. He reported that Govinda’s used only in-house dairy for the past six months, and announced the arrival of new cook Sri Rupa Das from Mumbai; and new menu items such as Indian sweets, Italian lasagna and canelonis, and Mexican items like burritos.
Vasudeva also reported on the Devotee Kitchen, which is working on creating a balanced diet for devotees so that they get proper nutrition. The kitchen will be getting a new altar and a new oven this year. It is also mainly using New Vrindaban protected dairy and has dramatically increased use of locally grown produce.
In Palace Restoration, Gopisa Das has a plan to expand the parking lot of Srila Prabhupada’s Palace from 18 parking spaces to 80, with a bus turnaround. He also plans to complete the outer wall and upper steps this year, with the lower steps and entry railing to follow.
In Facilities, also overseen by Gopisa, the library, third floor residential rooms and hallway from the kitchen to the temple room were renovated, and frozen pipes and radiators fixed. This year, Gopisa plans to upgrade the temple and lodge’s electrical systems, and renovate the lodge bathrooms, restaurant kitchen, temple siding and entry doors, cabin roofs, and swan boat house.
In the Palace Rose Garden, Gopalasyapriya Dasi spoke about her plan to stop using chemical fertilizers and start using more natural methods with the help of Paul Zimmerman of the American Rose Society, who recently did the same for the famous Biltmore Gardens in North Carolina. This, she felt, would attract a lot of people.
Speaking for Varshana Swami, Jaya Krishna reported that the Land Management department is working on the Palace parking lot and improving roads, drainage, and the Govardhana Parikrama path; but that it needs qualified young personnel to replace Maharaja, who is suffering from health problems.
In 2015, Treasurer Laxmi Honest aims to make sure funds for helping devotees through capital improvements and housing are used for those purposes only. She will also provide all department heads with “monthly budget vs actual” reports so that they can understand where they can spend less and more.
A new addition to Congregational Development, Daya Gauranga Das, reported a team of five preachers and a plan to increase fundraising 14% this year. However, he also emphasized that the the focus of congregational development was not taking but giving, by sharing with people a spiritual solution to their problems. He announced that five “Lila Sthalis,” or places of the Lord’s pastimes, would be marked on the community’s Govardhana Parikrama path with dioramas and art, and that Dina Bandhu Das will launch an annual Braj Mandala Parikrama at New Vrindaban this May.
Last but certainly not least came the Deity Department, headed up by Abhinandana Das. This year it created a sustainable and reliable team of pujaris with a family mood of cooperation; maintained punctuality and high cooking standards; and renovated the Deity kitchen and pujari room. In 2015, the pujaris plan to re-launch the Deity sewing room to fix old and torn outfits; extend the dressing room to create more space for the Lord’s outfits; build a new house for Tulasi Devi; and facilitate a second ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry training course.
As the presentations ended, Jaya Krishna, in a generous guesture, offered everyone a bag of Govardhana dust and CDs from his recent Braj Mandala Parikrama in Vrindavana, India.
He also invited all to take a copy of the beautifully designed “Prabhupada’s Vision: Our Mission” poster, saying, “Please take one and put it up on your refrigerator or next to your altar so that we are reminded daily of what Srila Prabhupada wants from us.”
His request reflected how many board members, managers, and New Vrindaban residents left the presentations – newly energized and refocused on Srila Prabhupada’s vision for his first rural community.
By Madhava Smullen
Two unique opportunities have arisen in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, USA.
ECO-Vrindaban, a non-profit organization that promotes Prabhupada’s ideals of simple living, cow protection, engaging oxen, local agriculture, and above all, loving Krishna, is searching for managers for its ox care and garden programs.
Protection of cows and bulls, Prabhupada said, “should be the main business of New Vrindaban.” He taught early residents to respect the cow, who could provide milk for nourishment, as their mother; and the ox, who could pull a plow to till the land, as their father.
There has been a cow protection program at New Vrindaban since 1969. But as with most ISKCON rural communities, the ox training program has not been maintained consistently.
Two years ago, however, ECO-V made a concerted effort to revitalize it. Last year, a dilapidated barn in the Bahulaban area was completely rebuilt, and became a home for oxen.
Three teams of young Brown Swiss oxen – Ishan and Balarama, Priya Darshan and Harichand, and Nandi and Manu are currently at different stages of training with Richard and Chaitanya Bhagavata Das. The oldest now work with yokes, follow commands, and pull logs. The ultimate goal is for them to pull plows in the community’s vegetable gardens, as well as carts of pilgrims, all to demonstrate a simple lifestyle.
To help lead this program, ECO-V seeks an individual passionate about cow protection; physically able to work with oxen; and willing to live in New Vrindaban for this full-time salaried position.
Duties include handling logistics and budgets; being an educational resource for local cowherds; and coordinating ox training volunteer activities. The ideal candidate will be a great team builder and have management or leadership experience, preferably with a non-profit.
“This person will make an important contribution by overseeing the revival of one of Prabhupada’s key instructions for New Vrindaban,” says ECO-V board member Chaitanya Mangala Das.
ECO-V is also looking for a garden manager to develop local agriculture, another key part of Srila Prabhupada’s vision. “These duties are there in New Vrindaban, and we shall have to live there self independently, simply by raising cows, grains, fruits, and flowers,” he wrote in 1969.
There are currently two main community garden spaces in New Vrindaban. One is called the Teaching Garden, a half-acre plot where herbs and flowers for the Deities are grown; the other is the fenced in seven-acre Garden of Seven Gates. In previous years that space has grown sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, snap peas, quinoa and much, much more.
The new garden manager can look forward to taking on a well-organized program – previous manager Kacey Orr, an experienced local farmer, cleaned up the grounds and facilities, erected hothouses, and established a system for planting perennial and annual vegetables and flowers. The gardens also have an irrigation system and all the tools and equipment required.
The new manager will be working closely with ISKCON New Vrindaban’s Deity, Devotee and Govinda’s Restaurant kitchen managers to supply them with fresh vegetables.
ECO-V is seeking someone experienced and knowledgeable in gardening, passionate about environmental and food production issues, and able to handle the physical work. Once again leadership experience is ideal, as is an ability to maintain positive relationships with community members and guests.
Also a full-time salaried position, duties include handling logistics and budgets, being an educational resource for local gardeners and coordinating volunteer activities.
“It’s a good time to be a part of the New Vrindaban community, because lately there’s been a lot of focus and energy given to revitalize the core instructions Prabhupada gave us,” says Chaitanya Mangala. “And this is a great opportunity to be part of a dynamic team.”
For those interested in either position, please send cover letter, resume and any other inquires to Mukunda Das: firstname.lastname@example.org
All devotees, including leaders, are invited to attend the upcoming ISKCON Communications Training Course in New Vrindaban Sat. & Sun. May 16 & 17, 2015.
Anuttama das will be the very entertaining and experienced facilitator.
You will learn such valuable things as:
- mastering key skills including listening, speaking & understanding the needs of others
- improving communications through interactive training
- enhancing our ability to spread Krsna consciousness
- building strong relationships amongst devotees
The two day schedule is:
SATURDAY MAY 16
10:00 am- 1:00 pm training session with break included
1:30 pm lunch
2:30- 5:30 pm training session with break included
6:30- 8:30 pm special evening session on devotee relationships
SUNDAY MAY 17
9:30 am- 12:30 pm training session with break included
12:45 – 2:00 pm training session
2:00 pm sunday love feast
AFTER FEAST possible training session
The course registration is free and sumptuous prasadam is also provided.
(If anyone is inspired to give a donation, it will be accepted of course!)
Please reply to email@example.com if you will be attending, so we can make plans for serving everyone nicely.
Looking forward to serving you,
The New Vrindaban Communications Team
It’s been a hectic six weeks for Sankirtana Das, New Vrindaban’s resident storyteller and college liaison. During this time, he hosted a half dozen student groups visiting the community. Sankirtana Das explained, “One of the student groups who visited New Vrindaban were from a Christian College here in West Virginia. I thought they would be a little skeptical, but I was delighted when they danced with such enthusiasm during the arati. All the devotees at the kirtana did a great job of engaging them in the service. ” (read student comments below).
Sankirtana also traveled to two colleges to present “Why & How the Hare Krishna Movement Came to America,” his media presentation of 130 pictures commemorating the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America. “The program was well received,” Sankirtana said, “and more colleges have scheduled the program for the fall.”
Another trip took him and his wife Ruci dd to Shepherdstown, WV. There, Sankirtana offered a program of Vedic Stories (katha) for an audience of almost 70. Afterwards, the audience (many affiliated with the college in town) enjoyed cookies made at Govinda’s, our vegetarian restaurant, and received Palace of Gold brochures. Ruci was surprised when about a half dozen people told her that they had already been to the Palace. “That’s almost ten per cent of the audience,” she said, “and others promised to visit.” The town is the oldest in West Virginia and home to Shepherdstown University. From there, Sankirtana and his wife journeyed to the Philadelphia ISKCON Temple where he did an evening program for a group of thirty.
Besides all this, Sankirtana Das is working on writing and researching material for a new book, as well recording and editing his soon to be released audio CD on stories of Hanuman. For info about Sankirtana’s award-winning book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest see www.Mahabharata-Project.com
College Student Experiences of New Vrindaban
Overall I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Hare Krishna center and see how Hindus live their lives. It was really neat that they welcomed us so energetically and that they were truly happy to show and tell us about their religion and culture. The people at the Islam and Jewish centers weren’t nearly as welcoming as the Hindus were.
I’ve never known much about the Hindu religion until this class and this experience, but the extravagant artwork at the palace was definitely my favorite part. Something we talked about in class was that Hindus claim to live simple, non extravagant lives, yet they have this huge golden palace in their community, and they put so much time and effort into their shrines to the gods. While I understand how this could confuse people, I also kind of understand it. Worshipping their gods is the most important thing to Hindus and they believe the best way to do this is to dedicate shrines and temples that are heavily decorated to show their love and devotion.
A really interesting thing I find about this religion is all of the interesting stories and tales they have as their history. The stories remind me of Greek and Roman mythology and it was really interesting to listen to some of them as we were getting a tour of the Palace. I would really like to read some of the accounts in the Bhagavad Gita and learn more about what Hindus think really happened in history. I respect their religion because they are open to all other religions as well. They don’t discriminate or hate like many other religions do and that’s a rare quality for a religion.
During their worship service it was intriguing to watch the members and how they participate. There was a lot of dancing and chanting for a solid thirty minutes; it almost looked like a workout. They were really passionate and devoted in their service and I almost felt like I was at some type of party or ceremony. This type of worship, to me, is much more interesting and fun than sitting down and listening to someone talk.
I enjoyed this visit to the Hare Krishna center and I would definitely say that it was my favorite experience of the three trips we went on. It’s something that I would like to take my younger brother and sister to as a cultural learning experience and as just something fun to experience on the weekend.
This was by far my favorite trip that the class has taken so far. The Hindu community is beautiful and very interesting. From the architecture of the buildings to the homes of those who live in the community every single part was beautiful. The spirituality that was present was very strong and exciting. Each follower was very welcoming and passionate about their religion.
The thing that caught my eye was the Palace. It is amazing to think that it was built by people who did not have any knowledge about construction. The detail that was put into the building was phenomenal. I knew that the Palace was designed to be a home for Prabhupada, but I did not realize how practical the structure was. It is so big and extravagant on the outside but so practical on the inside, which is what amazed me the most. The rooms were rather small inside I almost felt as if I was in an apartment instead of a palace. I really enjoyed the tour of the Palace it was as beautiful as I had imagined it to be.
I enjoyed the worship service. I was not sure what to expect when I walked into the temple. I kept thinking about how we had to take off our shoes at the Mosque and how this custom made Hinduism similar to Islam. The temple was absolutely beautiful, the altars were amazing and very interesting. The amount of detail that went into all of the altars was mind blowing and I do not believe I have ever seen anything like it. I found it very interesting that the altars were actually changed for seasons and events. It is similar to how my home church changes the decorations on the altar for the season or holidays, so it was cool to have that comparison.
The service was very interesting and exciting, I had never experienced anything quite like it. The atmosphere of the ceremony was very intense and inviting at the same time, and it seemed to keep me engaged and interested. When I think of worship I think of sitting and hearing a lesson or prayer, I most definitely do not think about dancing. When everyone started dancing, jumping, and yelling I was caught off guard. I knew that the ceremony was definitely different and there would be a lot of dancing and chanting but I was not ready for how intense it was. Once I relaxed and started participating in the service I understood why it was so fulfilling to Hindus. It was exciting and fun to be dancing with everyone while worshiping. Of course I was not worshiping Hare Krishna, but as others were I could see how passionate they were. The ways that they were dancing or jumping showed how much they love their religion and how thankful they are for Hare Krishna.
After experiencing Hinduism first hand I have a deeper understanding for the religion. I always thought it was the typical worshipping of idols and cows, but it is most definitely more than that. It is a true religion just like Christianity. Each Hindu strongly believes in Hare Krishna just like every Christian believes in Jesus Christ. Hinduism is a very welcoming, loving, and fun religion that I believe is misunderstood.
Of all the places we have visited so far, I think that the Hare Krishna Center in New Vrindaban was the most entertaining. Their buildings were exquisite and their service was energetic. The people were all incredibly friendly, especially the gentleman giving us the tour. I liked hearing Hinduism explained by someone who actively practices the religion. I think it helped make it a little less confusing. There were several wax figures of the great Hindu teacher. This particular branch of Hindus follows Prabhupada as their guide and example, and they specifically worship Krishna as their personal god.
I would like to visit the Hare Krishna Center again sometime, and hopefully gain even more insight about Hinduism. After our tour guide’s explanation of various concepts, it was starting to make a little more sense, but there is still a lot about Hinduism that is different than Christianity and even American culture. It was a lovely and interesting experience, although a bit strange.
Our Major World Religions class went to visit the Palace of Gold, a Hindu center in Moundsville, WV. Seeing as the last visit to the mosque and the previous visit to the synagogue had gone really well, I looked forward to our visit to the Hindu center. At the temple, we were invited to participate with the Hindu believers as they worshipped their gods. Some people found this uncomfortable, while others viewed it as more of a cultural experience. Sacrifices of food were offered to the idols. That day was very chilly, and I noticed that while there were no heaters to keep the people warm, there were heaters in each of the idols’ rooms. The people at the Hindu temple were extremely friendly. As they worshipped, the Hindu believers recited the Maha Mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Throughout the service they chanted this in a sing-songy manner, while dancing. There were also people playing the drums and other instruments to accompany the singing.
I enjoyed the dancing during the service. They pull individuals, who were standing on the side, into the center of the floor. Though some did not participate, I decided to join in. It was actually really fun! I also wafted the incense over my head. After a group of girl students had formed a large enough circle, the older Hindu women brought some of their little girls into the center of our circle, the younger girls creating a dance circle of their own within ours. Even though I do not believe in Hinduism, I still admire their spirit as they praised their gods. I could really tell that they were enthusiastic about being there and excited to have us joining them.
Everyone is invited to the special festival held in New Vrindaban on Lord Nrsimhadeva’s Appearance Day Sat. May 2, 2015. Don’t miss the evening 7:00 PM Aroti, which will be followed by some exciting Nrsimhadeva nectar!
New Vrindaban’s Lord Nrsimhadeva Deity is unique. He was made in New Vrindaban and installed in July 1986, the first full-size Nrsimhadeva deity installed in the U.S.A.
Soma dasa, whose many sculptures adorn the New Vrindaban community, carved the Nrsimha Deity. Soma dasa, consulting regularly with Sampat Kumar Bhattacarya, head of the famous Vyenkatesvara temple in Tirupati, India completed the Deity in only three months. The Deity is modeled according to descriptions of Nrsimhadeva given in the Vedic literature.
SCHEDULE SAT. MAY 2, 2015
5:00 a.m. Mangal Aroti
5:45-7:30 a.m. Japa
7:30 a.m. Gurupuja
7:45 a.m. Greeting the Deities
8-9:00 a.m. Srimad Bhagavatam Class by H.G. Sankirtan das
9:00 a.m. Light Breakfast for those not fasting
10:00 a.m. Govardhana Parikrama
12:30 p.m. Aroti
1:00 p.m. Bhagavad Gita Class by H.G. Gauranatraj das
1:30 p.m. Light Lunch for those not fasting
3-5:00 p.m. Fire yajna
5-5:30 p.m. Gopuja at the Goshalla
5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Abhishek
7-7:30 p.m. Aroti
7:30-7:45 p.m. Short Drama
7:45-8:00 p.m. Nrsimha Aroti
8:00 p.m. Feast
(fasting till dusk)
Please bring your offerings of bhoga by 6:30 pm.
Please bring flowers for the abhishek by 3 pm
May 8th – 10th, 2015
The countdown has begun! New Vrindaban’s Festival of Inspiration is only two weeks away, and it’s a big one — the 15th anniversary! Get ready for exciting and inspiring presentations by ISKCON’s best speakers; top-quality entertainment from dramas to stand-up comedy; rip-roaring kirtans; and mouth-watering prasadam, and much more!
So don’t miss this priceless opportunity to have the association of advanced devotees like H.H Jayapataka Swami, H.H. Jayadvaita Swami, H.H. Bhaktimarga Swami, and H. H. Varsana Swami. There will also be many senior devotees including Deena Bandhu dasa, Ravindra Swarup dasa, Dravida dasa, Urmila dasi, Malati dasi, world famous kirtaneer Agnideva das, Havi das, our hometown girl, Karnamrita dasi, ISKCON’S renowned comedian Yadunatha das, and many more. We are also expecting a special visit from Sally and Gopal Aggarwal, the family that sponsored Srila Prabhupada’s travel to America and hosted him in their home.
Good news: there is still accommodation available. You can register today at the Festival of Inspiration website or call us at 304-843-1600 ext. 135.
We look forward to serving you. Hare Krishna.
Strengthening The Vision: Prabhupada’s Third Visit to New Vrindaban
Written by Madhava Smullen. Archival Research by Chaitanya Mangala.
From July 18th to 23rd 1974, Srila Prabhupada visited New Vrindaban for the third time, to further establish his vision for it as a sacred place known worldwide for five primary things: cow protection, simple-living, holy pilgrimage, spiritual education, and above all, loving Krishna.
In a letter one year earlier, the ISKCON Founder-Acharya had written to encourage the expanding farm community: “Yes! Go on acquiring the surrounding lands, and in this way we will establish a local self-governing village and show all the world a practical example of spiritual life as Krishna Himself exhibited in Vrindaban.”
As his arrival date fast approached, New Vrindaban residents were whipped up in a flurry of activity. Meanwhile a letter from the editors of Brijabasi Spirit magazine reminded them, “Although we are all engaged in preparing the outward appearance of the community for Srila Prabhupada’s arrival, we must even more so develop the proper consciousness to receive such a great personality.”
And so it was that all the New Vrindaban devotees absorbed themselves in a rip-roaring kirtan as they waited outside their Bahulaban farmhouse temple on Thursday July 18th, every passing car eliciting from them a sharp intake of breath. When Prabhupada finally arrived, he was followed by a river of devotees, calling “Jaya Srila Prabhupada!” as he walked regally into the temple, offered his respects to Sri Sri Radha-Vrindabanchandra, and took his seat on his vyasasana.
In the Brijabasi Spirit, devotees describe “sheer spiritual force” permeating the temple room when Prabhupada began leading “Jaya Radha Madhava.” As Lord Krishna Himself states in Srila Prabhupada’s book Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, “A pilgrimage site becomes a holy place because of the presence of the saintly persons there.”
After his short but blissful kirtan, Prabhupada then delivered his arrival address, giving devotees an example of the kind of spiritual education he wanted New Vrindaban to be known for.
“So you are all very lucky in this far remote place, that is New Vrindaban,” he began. He talked about how Bhaktivinode Thakur, who had the idea to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world, had been a householder just like the residents of New Vrindaban; and about how they had the chance to provide the essential spiritual education that none of the country’s universities, colleges and schools did.
“I am very happy in this remote village,” he concluded. “You have got… Vrindaban Chandra. Vrindaban Chandra means the full moon light of Vrindavana… So worship the Deity and send missionary men from village to village and preach then gradually this center will be developed… So I thank you very much for your activities here. Hare Krishna.”
With another ecstatic kirtan following him, Prabhupada was then chauffeured to his residential quarters at the “Grey House” in Guruban, which had been renovated from top to bottom by an enthusiastic crew of devotees.
The next day, he toured the Bahulaban barn, to see how his cow protection vision was practically manifesting. He expressed his approval as devotees showed him their Harvestore silo, demonstrated its feeding system, and pointed out the lettering at the top that read “New Vrindaban — Founder and Acharya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.”
Later the same day, Srila Prabhupada visited his under-construction Palace, which was being built for him to reside and translate his books in. He beamed as Kirtanananda showed him where his bedroom, bathroom, Deity room and study would be, tapping the walls with his cane to make sure they were solid.
As Prabhupada inspected the Palace – nothing more than a construction site at the time — Bali Mardan asked if it would be illuminated with jewels on the wall, like Lord Krishna’s Palace in the Krsna book.
Srila Prabhupada looked over at Soma and Gostabihari, two construction workers on the job at the time. They had been toiling hard on a building site that had neither electricity nor running water. “These devotees,” he said, “Are my jewels.”
When Kirtanananda told Prabhupada the Palace would be ready soon and asked him to be patient with them, Prabhupada said, “I already am,” and added, “If you want, I am already living here.”
As he got into his car to leave, he looked up at Soma and Gostabihari through the open window. “So, you are working here?”
“Ghostabihari answered, ‘Yes Srila Prabhupada,” Soma recalls. “And then Prabhupada looked straight at us and said, ‘Thank you very much.’ It made me feel so good that he personally thanked me for working there.”
The next day, Saturday July 20th, about 400 devotees from all over North America including GBCs, sannyasis, travelling book distributors, and ISKCON Press staff gathered for a huge festival. Prabhupada attended guru-puja and gave Bhagavatam class in the morning. During the day there were ecstatic kirtans led by visiting devotees, and a delicious feast “with more preparations than anyone could eat,” according to Brijabasi Spirit.
In the evening, Srila Prabhupada spoke to a rapt audience, concluding his lecture by asking the devotees to all cooperate together “and then everything will go nicely.”
The next day, he initiated thirteen devotees, including Madhava Gosh, Tapanacarya, Advaitacarya, Rasalila, Nirmala, and Meghamala. He also awarded brahmana initiation to six candidates, including Parasara and Kashyapa (who would later become Varshana Swami).
In his talk, Prabhupada spoke about the simple-living aspect of his vision for New Vrindaban. He called the race for sense gratification unnecessary and praised living peacefully in a little cottage, growing vegetables and food grains, and getting milk from the cows. “We are trying to introduce in this New Vrindaban colony this simple life,” he said.
Later during his stay Prabhupada personally saw the Brijabasis’ efforts at this simple life. In 1973, he had written a letter instructing them how to build small cottages with wooden beams and tile roofs. “This design is especially suitable for grhasthas, who can feel very comfortable there,” he wrote.
Now he visited one of these cottages, dubbed “Prabhupada houses,” that had been built at New Vrindaban. Set in the Madhuban section of the community, it was home to Daivata Das and his wife Parayana Dasi.
When Prabhupada arrived, he appreciated the gardens where many householders were cultivating vegetables together, as well as the just-harvested vegetables on Daivata’s porch. “I do not want to eat anything unless it is grown here,” he said. “You should not buy, you should grow vegetables.”
He thoroughly inspected the cottage he himself had provided the design for with some interest, tapping the walls with his cane in his endearing way. Inside, he sat on a rocking chair, looking at everything and saying, “You should make thousands of these nice houses.” He then asked Daivata, “You are happy here?”
“Oh yes Srila Prabhupada, very happy. Thank you very much,” Daivata said.
Prabhupada continued chatting and laughing with Daivata for some time, asking about his four-month-old daughter Devahuti and commenting on how active she was. “I am very pleased to see this place,” he said before he left.
Prabhupada’s warm, personal interaction with Daivata was exemplary of all the interactions he had during his visit, with many devotees remembering his care and love in different ways.
Varshana Swami was impressed at how concerned Prabhupada was about making sure there were oxen and men working in the fields. “It really touched me that Prabhupada was attentive to what was being done in the agricultural realm,” he says.
Mahadevi Dasi will never forget the time that Prabhupada was giving out milk sweets to a huge crowd of devotees, and she worried that she wouldn’t get one. “As if he just read my heart, he looked directly at me, pointed his finger and held up the milk sweet that he had just bitten,” she recalls. “And it was passed through the devotees, right to me.”
And Gopalasapriya Dasi recalls how when Srila Prabhupada was talking to a group of devotees outside on a chilly evening, he stopped, looked at her and asked, “Are you alright? Such a thin cloth. Haven’t you got a cloth?” He then told one of the leaders, “You must find out if they have everything they need… the women need to be protected. They will not ask. You must ask them once a month and make sure that they are having everything they need.”
“I remember afterwards a few of the devotees were crying and feeling like he was so observant and concerned and he really does care about all of us,” she says.
For his part, Srila Prabhupada, like a proud parent, was very glad to see his first farm community growing into a wonderful realization of his vision.
“Regarding New Vrindaban I was very happy when I was there,” he wrote a few months after his visit. “Not only myself but all devotees and GBC members all enjoyed the atmosphere of New Vrindaban, especially the cow protection scheme. May Krishna give more facilities to advance the cause of New Vrindaban, and I am expecting very soon to go there and live in my proposed palace at least for some time.”
ECO-Vrindaban is a non-profit organization serving in the New Vrindaban community, located near Wheeling West Virginia, USA.
ECO-V promotes simple living, cow protection, engaging oxen, local agriculture, and above all, loving Krishna, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON New Vrindaban.
We seek an individual with experience in engaging oxen, who can handle both the challenges of managing a robust ox training program as well as maintaining positive relationships with New Vrindaban residents, pilgrims and guests.
• Oversee the ox training program, facilities and staff
• Handle department related logistics and budgets
• Serve as an educational resource for local cowherds
• Coordinate ox training volunteer activities
• Act as an organization liaison and representative
All potential candidates must be:
• Excited to develop Srila Prabhupada’s vision for self-sufficient farm communities
• Passionate about cow protection and related issues
• Physically able to work with oxen; training, plowing, transporting, logging, etc.
• Willing to live in New Vrindaban, WV
The ideal candidate will have:
• A proven track record and expertise in cow protection and engaging oxen
• Management or leadership experience, preferably with a non-profit
• A regular practice of individual chanting and participation in temple programs
Compensation: This will be a full-time, salaried position subject to a multi-year contract.
Please send cover letter, resume and any other inquires to Ranaka dasa: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gopisa’s India Journal, continued…..
Please see the first few installments of Gopisa Prabhu’s timeless and intriguing India journal on this Brijabasi Spirit at Gopisa’s India Journey Begins
Vrindavan Day 3
The trips to the temples and Loi Bazaar have been via bicycle rickshaw. I’d gladly trade some of my girth to the walla to make him stronger and make his portly fare easier to bear. Jaya Krsna takes it all in stride saying that this is their dharma and we are helping them out as they are the poorest of the lot seeing that they can’t afford a motorized rickshaw, but he still beats them up on the price! A ride to Loi Bazaar use to cost 5-7 rupees, now it’s 40 (after bargaining).
Loi Bazaar, a Unique Shopping Experience
We purchased some fruits, the quality is so nice. Also drank fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and sugar cane juice. It’s challenging to keep in mind that these are the residents of Vrindavan and therefore Krsna’s personal friends…but we do our best to remain humble and peaceful. Personal space is not a luxury one can afford in this town. In America people have a real need for physical contact but be assured that such necessities are well funded in this land of intimacy.
While it appears that much of the town is being overrun with capitalism and its maidservant technology, still there are remnants of the spirituality of the past tucked away in secret spaces hidden from the untrained eye. And I failed to mention that the rickshaw wallas don’t have horns for pedestrian traffic, the call out “Radhe-Radhe”. The chanting of Krsna’s holy name is ever present as we traverse this hallowed ground. Every time I pay obeisances, I make a point to take a little dust on my head…vancha calpa tarubyas ca….
Today we will endeavor to gain the audience of Syamasundar, the self manifest diety of Syamananda Pandit. As the story goes, he found an ankle bracelet and would not return it to a disguised Lalitadevi insisting on gaining the association of Srimati Radharani Herself. He was given a temporary spiritual body to accomplish this feat, initiated by Sriji Herself and given a beautiful diety of Krsna that self-manifest for Her pleasure.
This journey has been both humbling and enlightening…I cannot imagine what will come next. There is no way to predict Krsna’s plan…I canonly put one foot in front of the other and trust in Guru and Gauranga that They have my best interest in mind.
Love and Krsna to you all! g
Vrindavan Day 4
Today was rather exceptional…up early (3:00 am), japa finished before breakfast. Had every intention to attend class with Vashiseka but wanted to check on Jaya Krsna as he’s been getting progressively sicker and didn’t get out of bed this morning. Entering the MVT, there’s Dhanudara Maharaja with a group of Iranian matajis and 4 bramacharis heading out to Radha Kunda. Needless to say, I was on my way down the rabbit hole. Though it would take considerable time to write the whole story, sufficient it to say that Maharaja feels he needs to reciprocate for some some small gesture on my part from 40 years ago.
Off we go to Radha Kunda to receive the mercy of Srimati Radharani in Her pure liquid form. Maharaja is careful to set the mood with kirtan on the way there and our first stop is our godbrother, Svarupa Damodara Maharaja’s temple to pray for his mercy. After kirtan in the temple room, two bhajans in his personal quaters and japa in front of his samadhi, we’re ready to go. Onward to Raghunatha das Goswami’s samadhi, Janavidevi’s sitting place with a specially constructed private bathing entrance and finally we offer obeisances on the steps and I get the mercy of Radha Kunda from Maharaja! A nice brahmana offers puja on our behalf and then it’s off to Bhaktisiddhanta’s house for a special treat. A cabinet is opened and out comes His Divine Grace’s cane for benedictions on our heads. These Iranian matajis are VERY enthusiastic chanters and we are all in a special state of grace.
All told we were gone 6 hours and there was no time for breakfast, yet I did not experience any hunger.
Tomorrow Maharaja has a special place he wants to take Jaya Krsna and me, it’s 15 minutes’ walk and through a gate the he says will take us back to the way Vrindavan was in the past. More on that tomorrow.
I’m still amazed at the animals here. When I describe the monkeys, pigs, cows, dogs, green parrots, etc… It’s not that they are an occasional occurrence here, they are EVERYWHERE! All the dogs are docile as are the cows and pigs. Only the monkeys get a little rambunctious and that’s mostly in the bazaar where they’ve learned to steal glasses to trade for bananas. It’s not surprising to see 20 monkeys, 5 pigs, 4 cows and a half dozen dogs in a single block.
And the driving is a state of perpetual chicken (or cow, dog, pig, monkey…you get my drift) yet all survive and one learns to take it all in stride. One truly must be convinced that they are not the body to adapt. Safety is non-existent, no seat belts, lines in the road, traffic lights, nothing! It’s chaotic symmetry on the highest order.
I found out that there is a swan boat festival here once a year where they flood the courtyard and give Their Lordships a nice ride. This temple is amazing! The deities are the absolute center of attention and the lines of people that stream in every single day for morning and evening darshan is incredible. There are so many fragrant flowers offered that it boggles the mind. The marble floors and walkways are swept two or three times a day and washed at least once. The crew that runs and maintains this facility is large, motivated and efficient. All wear neck beads and respond to a Hari Bol. The restaurants, sweet shops and snack bars are all top quality. They announce their book distribution totals every morning to Their Lordships and it’s typically 1400-1600 books every day! Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental book distribution Ki Jaya!
Enough for today. This took 1 1/2 hours to write… I know the subject matter is more than a little esoteric and may be a bit much to absorb…..I can only beg for your tolerance and ask that you all bear with me on this rather extraordinary journey.
Love and Krsna to you all! g
Vrindavan As It Is
Today Dhanudara Maharaja took a small group of us to see Vrindavan as it is. There is no describing the experience of passing through a dimensional portal into a world of 5000 years past. We turned off a road and went through a solid black steel gate and into paradise. Lest you think I exaggerate, there are pictures to prove it. What lies beyond is a Vrindavan untouched by the cold finger of “progress”.
This land is in the flood zone and therefore cannot be developed, at least not yet… It is all gardens, neatly arranged in multiple plots divided by 12″ high mounds. Within this remarkable vision of pastoral delight are countless rows of marigolds, roses, banana trees, large bale fruit trees, amala trees, and other strange and exotic varieties of plant life. Kalindi, you would be in ECSTASY! Try to conjure up the ideal rose fragrance….now multiply it tenfold. That’s how fragrant these roses are. Now I know where all those garlands and bushels of flowers come from that are offered to Their Lordships. For one tuned in to the olfactory sensations, this is a veritable gold mine. Yet in this land of Krsna, one instinctively feels, ” Oh, what a nice flower, let me offer it to my beloved Gopinatha”. It’s not that I have any love or realization, it’s just this place…one simply knows from somewhere deep within.
And the residents! Today is Ekadasi, fasting from beans and grains. The streets were buzzing all day with pedestrian traffic of chanting and singing people in blisstacy as they follow the parikram path that surrounds the town. At the temple every morning and evening, these same residents file through with banana leaf plates overflowing with garlands to offer both the Lord and His pure devotee. To see so many people coming through in droves, trying to get the merciful audience of Srila Prabhupada and the presiding deities. Today is Tuesday yet there are so many visitors…yes it’s Ekadasi, but yesterday was the same….I took both still pictures and a video so you can see what I mean. AND, there is 24 hour kirtan, every day, all day and all night. There’s a dozen large oriental rugs covering the floor for these kirtanias. And these rugs must be rolled up every day for the sweepers to clean and wash the floor.
Though Jaya Krsna is still quite sick (and I’m not far behind), we made it to Loi Bazaar to finish our shopping. I got a little incense, a bell for offerings, neck beads, counting beads and some other something or other…….;-) Suffice it to say, the flight home will be challenging. Jaya Krsna and I will have to sit on opposite sides of the plane to keep it from listing.
That’s all for now. We’re off to Govardhana tomorrow to begin the next retreat…or should I say “re-treat”?
Love and Krsna to you all! g
We left Vrindavan today for the Govardhana retreat. I was quite sick last evening and couldn’t sleep, gave up at 3 am and got up for the morning program. Well worth the effort to get one last look at the heartbreakingly beautiful countenances of Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri-Sri Krsna Balarama and the stunning Sri-Sri Radha Syamasundar, Lalita and Vishaka.
Sri Giriraja (the personality of Govardhana hill) is the greatest facilitator of Krsna’s pastimes and is not without a sense of humor. We finally arrived at our destination and my suitcase, which I watched them load, is missing. Apparently an Indian gentleman from Houston mistook mine (which is half again bigger, a lot heavier, a different hrand and doesn’t have a red ribbon on it) for his and it took him almost an hour to figure it out. So there I am with one set of dirty clothes, wet socks (because the drains here are flexible plastic pipe stuck in a hole in the floor which the rats displace when they come top side) and I’m facing the loss of all my clothes and the silver deity paraphernalia I’d just purchased. Can’t say it’s not an adventure!
We went out to a special place near the hill with very old pilu trees that appear to be in a state of frozen perpetual motion. Hard to describe, you’ll just have to see the pictures to understand. These entities are ancient and graceful. They could easily be thousands of years old.
The next 5-6 days will be filled with lectures, philosophy and deep discussions of the answers to God, the universe and everything…..and no, it’s not 42. Just foolin’, but suffice it to say that there is insufficient time or space to explain it. There’s 5 speakers, 4 lectures per day and it’s all taking place next to Govindaji’s garden in an elaborate tent that would rival the sultan tents of Persia AND right next to Govardhana Hill.
Don’t know if I’ll have much to write over the next several days but we’ll see…you’re probably getting overloaded anyway…
Love and Krsna to you all! g
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Hari Bhakti-vilas 16.252