By Madhava Smullen
Possibly the hottest topic at the Fall 2015 ISKCON New Vrindaban and Eco-Vrindaban Board Meetings, and certainly the one that drew the most interest, was the Community Dialog about a proposed new “Village Association.”
For decades, New Vrindaban residents have felt a need to be heard more by the ISKCON management and to have more influence on how their community is run.
So with a possible solution at hand, they were buzzing as they crowded into the Palace Lodge community hall after lunch on December 5th to learn more about it.
Longtime residents Nityodita Das and Advaitacharya Das guided the session, beginning with a half-hour Power Point presentation on the history and plan for the proposed Village Association.
The idea, they explained, has its roots in Srila Prabhupada’s 1973 statement, “We will establish a local self-governing village.” Varying attempts to make inroads towards this were made over the years, the most recent being the Advocacy Sanga — first launched in 2013.
Then, during the March 2015 board meetings, members of the INV and ECO-V boards themselves, led by Chaitanya Mangala and Jaya Krsna, encouraged the creation of an official Village Council, which would participate in the management of New Vrindaban from a broader “village” perspective.
To do this, volunteers began the process by first forming a Steering Committee of seven. These included Jaya Krsna and Ananga Manjari (representing INV), Mukunda (representing ECO-V); and Advaitacarya, Nityodita, Devala, and Vyasasana, representing long term residents and broader community interests.
Over the next six months, the Steering Committee conducted many meetings with different interest groups in the village of New Vrindaban to develop their proposal. They then organized three larger gatherings – increasing in attendance each time from 20, to 40, to 60 people — where they continued to tweak the “blueprint.”
The version presented at the December 5th Community Dialog proposed a “New Vrindaban Village Association” made up of residents who would elect their chosen representatives to a “Village Council.”
The Village Council would then regularly meet with the ECO-V and INV boards and interact in a cooperative framework which is provisionally being called the “New Vrindaban Village Board.”
Advaitacharya and Nityodita explained that membership of the Village Association would be very open and inclusive, with the only requirement being that members must reside in the Ohio-Valley area.
“If you raise your hand and say, ‘I want to be a member,’ that qualifies you to be a member,” Advaita told the intrigued crowd.
The requirements to be a voting member aren’t much more restrictive: one need only be at least 18 years of age, an Ohio-Valley resident for at least one year, and attend at least one function of the Village Association per year.
In return, the Association aims to create a loving family environment among its members that helps to empower and assist devotees to live happily in and around New Vrindaban.
One priority will be to enhance fellowship and friendships amongst New Vrindaban villagers through regular spiritual and social group activities, such as men’s and women’s groups, youth groups, reading groups etc — a much-needed feature. Another will be to care for members by helping them understand housing options available and the land acquisition process, as well as by encouraging economic development through the establishment of local businesses.
And perhaps the most important facet will be to set up a system where concerns can be expressed, shared and addressed with action. This will help New Vrindaban residents feel cared for, and empower them with their desired participation in governing the village.
The system would likely see residents – soon to be members of the Village Association – address their concerns to their Village Council, who would then either handle the issue themselves or act as the go-between with ISKCON New Vrindaban or ECO-Vrindaban if it fell under the purview of either of those organizations.
The main difference would be a shift in expectations; not all the concerns of the Village would be funneled through ISKCON, allowing the temple – with its limited capacity – to act more as a spiritual center of the Village. This would reflect the fact that while residents and the two main non-profit organizations in New Vrindaban share many common concerns, there are some aspects that can be better handled in simultaneously cooperative and self-determined ways.
“We need to break out of the old mindset of trying to use the legal structure of a religious non-profit in ways it was never meant to be used,” says joint-board member Chaitanya Mangala. “The analogy I use: If I went to the town of Moundsville, and said, ‘We’re now going to funnel all city management decisions through a local Church,’ everybody would look at me with a puzzled face and ask, ‘What are you talking about?’ Clearly, it doesn’t make sense. But that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do for decades in New Vrindaban.”
After Nityodita and Advaitacharya’s presentation, the floor was opened up to an hour-and-a-half of discussion, beginning with everyone in the room getting the chance to express their feelings about the idea.
Many long-term residents, including Advaita himself, felt somewhat guarded, having seen multiple similar attempts fail in the past. They expressed that they were reserving their full enthusiasm for when and if the idea succeeded.
“Personally, I had never intended to get involved in something like this again – I had been through it too many times,” says Advaita. “But this time it came from the leadership outwards, saying, ‘Yes, we recognize this problem, and we know it really needs to be addressed.’ It’s the first time I’ve ever seen that, and that makes me hopeful.”
Some residents wanted more clarification on how the new structure would work. Board and Steering Committee members explained that this is a new, learning experience for everyone, that every detail has not yet been figured out, and that the mechanics will naturally be established over time with members learning as they go.
Others were concerned that the new Village Council would not really be on an equal footing with the other boards or have enough power to make things happen. In response, Advaita pointed out that the key to successful results is working together with trust and a cooperative spirit – something Srila Prabhupada stressed many, many times.
The qualities of patience, determination, and enthusiasm (utsahan niscayad dhairyat) – which Tamohara Das cited in Saturday morning’s Srimad Bhagavatam class – were also repeated throughout the Community Dialog and the weekend in general, as necessary qualities to practice in order to be successful in such efforts.
Finally, Board and Steering Committee members emphasized that differing viewpoints are all right, and in fact expected, as long as everyone maintains an underlying assumption of goodwill, and continues to communicate and cooperate with the shared goal of doing the best they can for the devotees, Srila Prabhupada and Krishna.
Overall, the mood of the Community Dialog was one of optimism, with many comments like, “I’m feeling enthusiastic,” “I’m enlivened to see things get this far,” and “I hope it will be successful.”
The Dialog concluded with the Steering Committee asking who would be open to joining the Village Association, and receiving a near unanimous show of hands.
Next up, the Steering Committee is planning a local event to officially launch the Village Association. Invitiations will include a print-out of the Power Point presented at the Community Dialog, along with membership applications. The event will feature entertainment, kirtan, prasadam, and a chance to sign up to get involved in community interests and concerns.
“I see this as a positive step, to paraphrase Srila Prabhupada, ‘In the gradual development of New Vrindaban as a self-governing village,’” says Chaitanya Mangala. “The previous culture, where every decision had to go through the ISKCON New Vrindaban management structure, disempowered individuals and put a huge burden on a handful of people. Distributing that load and increasing individual empowerment is necessary and will be incredibly beneficial for both local residents and ISKCON management.”
By Madhava Smullen
The Service Appreciation Ceremony – a semi-annual custom introduced in 2014 that honors those who have contributed years of service to the New Vrindaban village – was held for the third time at ISKCON New Vrindaban’s Community Hall on Sunday December 6th, 2016.
Previous ceremonies honored the late Madhava Gosh and his wife Vidya, Kripamaya and his wife Krsna Bhava, Malati Devi, Navin-Shyam, Jamuna, and Kacey Orr for diverse services from GBC to board member to cow and garden care.
This time, around fifty people gathered to honor ECO-Vrindaban veteran farmhand Ray Kuderski, cook and mother Dharmakala Dasi, performer and author Sankirtan Das, and his wife Ruci, a longtime teacher at New Vrindaban.
Joint board member Chaitanya Mangala Das acted as MC for the event, which for the first time included slideshow presentations on each honoree’s life and achievements.
Each person was also presented with a cherrywood plaque thanking them for their decades of service in the development of the New Vrindaban community, on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, Sri Sri Radha Vrindabana Chandra, and the Board of Directors of ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban.
Ray Kuderski – whose wife Kelli, son Michael, and sister-in-law Carol were all present – received his plaque from Ranaka Das, his boss and friend during his more than three decades of exceptional work with the cows and farming activities in New Vrindaban.
Born and raised in the Moundsville area, Ray didn’t have prior farm work experience, but learned on the job. He first began working with Ranaka in the Plough Department in 1983, which later merged with the Cow Care Department and eventually evolved into ECO-Vrindaban.
“For decades, it was mostly Ray and Ranaka doing everything,” says Chaitanya Mangala. “During the tougher times at New Vrindaban, when they had to look after 400 cows on a shoestring budget, they often had to put aside their own concerns and comfort to make sure the cows were cared for.”
The crowd laughed with fond familiarity when Chaitanya showed them a photo of Ray on his trusty John Deere tractor, commenting, “This is probably how you all recognize him.”
“Ray is known as a no-nonsense guy who does his work steadily without complaint year in and year out,” explains Chaitanya. “He’s been an amazing part of the fabric of New Vrindaban for so long. The place clearly wouldn’t be the same without him.”
True to form, when Ray was offered the chance to say a few words after his slideshow presentation, he declined with a self-effacing grin. But the crowd wouldn’t stay silent. One after the other, dozens got to their feet, praising Ray for his incredibly dedicated participation.
Next came Dharmakala Dasi, who has served New Vrindaban for more than four decades. After joining ISKCON in Maryland in 1972, Dharmakala was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1973 in New York, and began cooking for Krishna at the Henry Street temple there.
She moved to New Vrindaban in 1974, where she received 2nd initiation in 1975 and began cooking for the Deities and devotees, a service she would continue for the next fifteen years.
Her opulent 4pm offering of elaborate cookies and cheese cake became legendary, as did the breadsticks, date nut bars, apple crisp and more she made for the devotees. Often spending eleven-hour days in the kitchen, Dharmakala still found time to raise her five children.
After stopping her work in the temple kitchen, she continued to bake cakes for weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries in New Vrindaban, a service she offers to this day. In 1995, she started her company “World’s Best Cookie,” which has sold over 500,000 handmade cookies.
Speaking about their mother, Dharmakala’s eldest son Suddha-Sattva and daughter Dinataruni appreciated how she had opened her home to their friends. “Our house was always packed with kids, and you’d feed them every day,” Suddha said. “That’s one of the ways you showed your love for devotees in the community.” Dharmakala’s son Vincent and daughter Sarasvati were also present.
In turn, the crowd then showered their love and appreciation on Dharmakala, mostly by enthusiastically yelling out the names of her different legendary preparations. Some reminisced about fighting over her offerings; others thanked her for the cakes she had made for them. ECO-V Board Chair Bhima Walker then presented her with her plaque.
“My friends are the reason I’m still living in New Vrindaban after all these years,” Dharmakala was quoted in an article that was read out. “We all built this place together. We’re like family.”
Finally, Sankirtan and Ruci were honored. The two met in college in 1968, joined the Chicago temple soon after, and were initiated in 1973. They arrived in New Vrindaban on the eve of Gaura Purnima 1976 in the dead of winter, showing them just how austere the place could get. But nothing could deter them from serving there for the next four decades.
As well as her service to Tulasi Devi, Ruci is most known for her nearly forty years of teaching preschool and elementary students at different New Vrindaban schools since 1978.
Today, she continues to teach at the Gopal’s Garden Homeschool Co-Op, established in 2007. There, she provides a balanced blend of standard academic subjects and Krishna conscious ones, including japa, kirtana, and Bhagavad-gita slokas. At the end of each school year, she produces an anthology of the students’ writings and illustrations.
Over the years, Ruci developed bonds with her students that have remained to this day. She often receives mail from early students – now with successful careers and their own families – who tell her what an impact her teaching had on their personal and professional lives.
At the service appreciation ceremony, three generations stood to thank Ruci for everything she had done. Pioneer New Vrindaban residents told her, “You were a shining light throughout New Vrindaban’s history. You never let us down.” Their children, now in their thirties and forties, appreciated all the benefits they had gotten from her classroom. And their children, still currently studying with Ruci, piped up and said, “I love being in Ruci’s class!”
Meanwhile her husband Sankirtan is known for braving austere conditions out at the Bahulaban “Pits” to cook breakfast every day for nearly fifteen years, including the famed “oatwater.”
He’s perhaps most praised, however, for developing the Brijabasi Players and for his hundreds of plays and skits from the late 1970s to this day.
One of his most fondly remembered productions was the sweet Nandulal, in which he played the blind saint Bilvamangala Thakur, who unknowingly encounters Krishna, played by the then 12-year-old Sesa Walker. Sankirtan recalled the play as one of his favorite experiences from over the years, praising the professionalism and commitment of his youthful co-star.
Sankirtan also collaborated for many years with Lokamangala Das, performing transcendental dramas around the U.S. These included the two-man magnum opus Mahabharat, which they toured for four years to colleges, temples and even Off Broadway in New York City.
Sankirtan is also an award-winning storyteller and author, winning the West Virginia Artist Fellowship Award in 2005 for his storytelling at schools and colleges, and a Next Generation Indie Book finalist award in 2014 for his book Mahabharat: The Eternal Quest.
Recently, Sankirtan has been taking his PowerPoint about the 50th Anniversary of Prabhupada’s arrival in the West to colleges. And his project “Holding Srila Prabhupada,” in which he takes photos of pilgrims holding a picture of the ISKCON Founder outside his home – where Prabhupada stayed in June 1976 – has given hundreds a deeper New Vrindaban pilgrimage experience.
After the presentation on Sankirtan’s life, many devotees stood to say how moved they were by his service. Advaitacarya Das recounted how Sankirtan had spent eight hours a day for two weeks helping his son Halavah Sofksy rehearse to try and get an acting scholarship. As a result, Halavah won the scholarship. Present himself, Halavah added, “It shows the level of generosity that you have. And so many others have similar stories to tell about you.”
Sankirtan and Ruci also have two adult children of their own. Their son Josh (Sanjaya) – who was present at the ceremony — is an attorney and helps edit Sankirtan’s writings. Their daughter Visnupriya is a senior product and graphic designer for a consulting firm, and has designed and illustrated Sankirtan’s books.
At the end of the ceremony, Ruci and Sankirtan were presented with their plaque by INV board member Keval Patel.
In his concluding statement, Chaitanya Mangala recited Verse 4 from Rupa Goswami’s Nectar of Instruction, which discusses the six “symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.”
He also quoted the purport, where Srila Prabhupada writes: “Even in ordinary social activities, these six types of dealings between two loving friends are absolutely necessary,” and further clarifies, “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been established to facilitate these six kinds of loving exchanges between devotees.”
“We don’t often just walk up to people we know and tell them our open-hearted thoughts and appreciations,” says Chaitanya. “So it’s important that we create spaces to facilitate this kind of sharing. When people do things to support and appreciate each other, it’s catching. The recipient feels good and then does something nice for someone else, and it causes a ripple effect.”
To finish off the evening, everyone had the chance to mill about and socialize with each other as they tucked into a delectable Ekadasi cake baked by Lakshman Das.
Plans are in place to continue the Service Appreciation Ceremony at New Vrindaban twice a year, well into the future.
Madhava Gosh Dasa, born October 25th, 1949, left his body peacefully at his home in New Vrindaban, WV, on January 2nd, 2016, at the age of 66.
Madhava Gosh was a pioneer New Vrindaban inhabitant, having lived in the dhama since 1973. Inspired by the instructions of his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, he was a lifelong activist of local agriculture and cow protection and implemented an endowment fund to care for the cows at New Vrindaban.
Serving as one of the farm hands at New Vrindaban since the early days, Madhava Gosh spent decades of his life gardening and working on simple living projects.
When asked a month before he passed away what he felt was his best accomplishment he said, “Planting the trees, because the fruits are not enjoyed by the planter, but by those to come in the future. And these trees will outlive most of us.”
Madhava Gosh had a 10 year plan to plant 1,000 fruit and nut trees in the New Vrindaban dhama area, as part of the program for sustaining the Deities and devotees in the future, to provide perineal “crops” to produce food, year after year after year. Madhava Gosh planted with an assistant well over 350 trees since 2010. 150 trees were planted by householders living in New Vrindaban who take care of the trees. There are plans to resume this project in 2017.
Back in May 2006, Madhava Gosh had a liver transplant, due to his organ failing. His son Marken donated half of his own liver to sustain his father. Madhava Gosh did lots of service with his son’s gift and the “extra’ time.
The past two years Madhava Gosh has been struggling with post-transplant liver degeneration and other side effects. Both his kidneys failed and he had been on dialysis 3 times a week for over a year. With all the physical complications he was dealing with, he became weaker and weaker. He also came to understand that his lungs were already beginning to slowly deteriorate and filling with liquid.
Understanding that he was slowly dying and not wanting to be a burden on those caring for him, Madhava Gosh chose to go off dialysis on December 24th, 2015.
The week before his departure, Madhava Gosh’s daughter, Vraja, looked after his physical care. Many community members as well as some local neighbors visited Madhava Gosh. Devotees came and shared old pastimes and laughed with Madhava Gosh and expressed their hearts. They played instruments and sang and read Krishna book to Madhava Gosh. Srila Prabhupada’s singing was played non-stop for the last week.
Then on January 2nd, it seemed as if Krishna took direct control of all the events that followed, as everything seemed to be perfectly coordinated. The sun shined through the window. Three devotees, including Vraja, sat peacefully chanting by Gosh’s bedside while a recording of Srila Prabhupada and the Hare Krsna Temple album played in the background. That morning the samsara prayers were sung and then the Govindam prayers and some of the Brahma Samhita. Srila Prabhupada’s garland had been placed at Madhava Gosh’s head.
His daughter swabbed fresh Tulasi leaves from Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s lotus feet, sprinkled in the Ganges water into Gosh’s mouth. Madhava Gosh, who had not moved for 24 hours, suddenly lurched his right arm forward, and his right hand, which was inside his japa bag, grabbed his japa beads tightly. Gosh had a tear in his eye, took a labored breath. His daughter Vraja said, “It is OK, you can leave” and his next breath was his last.
Madhava Gosh left his body at 11:23 am, January 2, 2016. Srila Prabhupada’s garland was moved to encircle his face and neck. Shortly after his glorious passing, Srila Prabhupada was singing the Nrisimhadeva prayers of protection in the background.
Madhava Gosh is survived by his wife of 41 years, Vidya Dasi; five children, Manjari, Madhu, Vraja, Marken & Tulasi; three grandchildren, Mary, Gracie & Sydney; and many friends.
Those wishing to do something in honor of Madhava Gosh could plant a fruit, nut or flowering tree or contact ECO-Vrindaban at their Facebook page, which specifically funds the projects for the cows and garden care at New Vrindaban.
The community members are grateful that Madhava Gosh generously gave his time and energy to develop, maintain and preserve this New Vrindaban project. Thank you Madhava Gosh Prabhu, your spirit will live on through the fruits of your lifelong service contributions.
Written by Madhava Smullen. Archival Research by Chaitanya Mangala.
There’s no doubt that protecting cows was very close to Srila Prabhupada’s heart.
In a series of Back to Godhead magazine articles in the mid 1950s, he was already envisioning a community where residents lived a simple life and protected cows.
Soon after registering ISKCON in New York in 1966, he began requesting his disciples to start a rural community, asking them to call it “ISKCON-Nagari or New Vrindaban.”
And when Hayagriva Das, Kirtananda Swami and a handful of other devotees began New Vrindaban, ISKCON’s first farm, in 1968 in the hills of West Virginia, he urged them to keep cows and bulls there, and to maintain them comfortably throughout their natural lives as their proverbial mothers and fathers.
The cow’s milk could be used to create all kinds of staple foods, and their dung dried and used as fuel, he explained. Bulls could pull plows to till the ground for food grains. Together, they offered the chance of a peaceful, self-sufficient life free from the modern world’s stressful rat race and favorable for advancing in Krishna consciousness.
What’s more, he explained to Hayagriva in one of his first letters about New Vrindaban’s development, caring for cows was what Lord Krishna did every morning in Goloka Vrindavana. “Krishna by His practical example taught us to give all protection to the cows, and that should be the main business of New Vrindaban,” he said.
Prabhupada continued to write the New Vrindaban devotees nearly every month, espousing the benefits of cow protection along with outright entreaties for action.
“I am anxiously awaiting receipt of your first cow,” he wrote to Shyama Dasi in March 1969. And in April: “I hope you will soon be getting a cow for New Vrindaban. Vrindaban without cows does not look well, so we must have many cows as soon as possible.”
Devotees were glad to have finally purchased their first cow by the time Srila Prabhupada first visited New Vrindaban in May 1969. A black Jersey with a white mark on her forehead where Vaishnavas wear their tilak, she was named Kaliya, or “black,” by Prabhupada himself.
One of the first things the “Brijabasis” did when Prabhupada arrived was offer him a seat beneath a willow tree, and bring him fresh milk from Kaliya. They then sat around him in a semi-circle on the grass, looking up at him expectantly as he raised the cup to his lips.
Prabhupada was delighted. “I haven’t tasted milk like this in fifty years,” he said.
Excited at pleasing their spiritual master, the devotees brought Kaliya to meet him. Ranadhir Das paraded her before him, and Prabhupada admired her. “We don’t have such fatty cows in India,” he said. “In days past, yes, but now no one can feed them nicely. That is the way the Vedas calculate a man’s wealth—in cows and grains.” He even walked out to the barn to watch Ranadhir put Kaliya back in her stall.
During his visit, which lasted a whole month, Prabhupada continued encouraging the devotees, meeting with community leaders to discuss growing their herd from one to fifty. One cow’s milk could be shared by at least ten people, he said; or if each resident had their own cow, they could sell excess milk products and “get other necessities of life in that way.”
New Vrindaban and Kaliya stayed on Prabhupada’s mind after his visit. “I am always thinking of your New Vrindaban,” he wrote from Los Angeles just two days after leaving. “The first thing I find is the taste of the milk. The milk which we are taking here is not at all comparable with New Vrindaban milk.” He even offered to help finance more cows for the community.
Over the next few months and years, Prabhupada greatly enjoyed receiving in the mail curd cheese and milk sweets made from dairy provided by New Vrindaban’s protected cows; and he guided devotees in how to prepare them. “The whole idea of New Vrindaban is that men who are living there should produce their own food, of which milk is the principal thing,” he wrote.
After visiting New Vrindaban again in September 1972 to deliver a series of Bhagavat Dharma discourses, he was clearly enlivened by the progress he had seen. “I can see that Krishna is giving you more and more facility for developing this New Vrindaban scheme,” he said. “So this is very nice. I am very pleased that you have acquired some more cows.”
But he also cautioned the devotees not to forget about the bulls. “The cow is so wonderful and valuable in society,” he wrote. “But you should also use the bulls by engaging them in tilling the ground. People may call this the primitive way but it is very practical for engaging the bulls.”
By the time Prabhupada visited New Vrindaban again in July 1974, its cow protection program was thriving. There were 100 cows spread across three farms – Bahulaban, Vrindaban and Madhuban – including sixteen milking cows who produced over 600 gallons of milk per week. A fourth farm, Nandagram, housed young oxen, and three ox teams were being trained.
Prabhupada visited the Bahulaban barn, walking down its length and closely observing the cows on either side. He stopped at Shukla, whose milk he had also drank, and patted her on the head. He then observed the cow Satyabhama being milked, and when told that she was giving nine gallons daily said to cowherd Devakinandana Das, “You are doing wonderfully here.”
After his visit, Prabhupada wrote that he was “very happy” while in New Vrindaban and enjoyed the atmosphere, “especially the cow protection scheme.”
He continued to encourage the devotees to build a farm community that would set an example for how to treat cows: “Let other farms see… how we derive benefit from them and that will be the living example to persons who are using cow flesh rather than cow milk.”
In 1976, when he visited New Vrindaban for the last time, the community was caring for four working teams of oxen and over 150 cows. A new barn had been erected in Bahulaban, and Prabhupada visited it to see the cows and four new-born calves. He let one of them lick his hand as a devotee told him how the cows were yielding about 120 gallons of milk every day, which they were turning into ghee, cheese and buttermilk. Prabhupada was pleased.
But there was one cow he still hadn’t seen. Kaliya, now fourteen years old, was the retired matriarch of New Vrindaban’s herd. She had given birth to eight calves herself, and up until the previous year, had still been producing about six gallons of milk a day for the Lord and the devotees – despite having maladies common to aging cows of her breed, such as blindness in one eye and respiratory problems.
Writing in Brijbasi Spirit magazine, cowherd Amburish Das described how Kaliya – the smallest cow in New Vrindaban at 800 pounds – never pushed and shoved to eat grain as the other cows did, but stood patiently waiting her turn. “There may be some mild cows, but Mother Kaliya is even more than mild – she is a devotee,” he said. “Her humility is unmatched.”
This rare soul was finally reunited with Srila Prabhupada after seven years in a meeting that left an indelible mark in the minds and hearts of those who witnessed it.
Towards the end of his visit, Prabhupada walked with a large group of devotees to go see Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath in the farmhouse temple at the old Vrindaban farm, where Kaliya resided. It was a beautiful morning, the rays of the rising sun shining hazily through a light mist.
As Prabhupada rounded a curve and spotted the Vrindaban farmhouse in the distance, one of the devotees, Advaitacarya Das, pointed to a small herd of cows far up at the top of “Govardhana Hill,” which rose to their left. “Srila Prabhupada, look!” he said. “There’s Kaliya. She’s our first cow. You used to drink her milk.”
Suddenly, as Prabhupada looked up at her, Kaliya broke away from her herd and made her way alone down the steep bank. Matching the devotees’ pace, she stepped out right in front of Srila Prabhupada, and began walking with him as if she were his pet calf.
“Ah,” Srila Prabhupada said simply. “My dear old friend Kaliya.”
She continued to walk with him for some time, a quiet connection hanging between them that the devotees all felt. Then, finally Kaliya picked up her pace and disappeared over the horizon.
“For me, it was a mystical experience,” says Advaita. “Srila Prabhupada was always preaching that we’re all trying to get to Vrindavana, where Krishna and his cowherd boy friends are eternally playing and taking care of the cows. And to see Kaliya come down the hill and walk with him like that just made it all very real.”
After this last visit to New Vrindaban, Prabhupada continued to encourage his followers to establish cow protection programs all over the world. And to all of them, he gave New Vrindaban as the model farm community to emulate – the home of Kaliya, the “Queen of New Vrindaban,” and ISKCON’s very first cow.
Madhava Gosh Dasa, age 66, died peacefully at his home in New Vrindaban, WV, January 2nd, 2016, following a long struggle with post transplant liver failure.
He was a pioneer New Vrindaban inhabitant, having lived there since 1973. Inspired by the instructions of his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, he was a lifelong activist of local agriculture and cow protection.
Madhava Gosh is survived by his wife of 41 years, Vidya Dasi; five children, Manjari, Madhu, Vraja, Marken & Tulasi; three grandchildren, Mary, Gracie & Sydney; and many friends.
A memorial service will be held 10:30 am, Monday, January 4th, at the ISKCON New Vrindaban Temple. Friends are welcome at the service and the reception at the family home from 2:30 to 6 pm.
Gosh made two specific requests:
1. The memorial ceremony should start and end on time.
2. Those wishing to do something in his honor should plant a fruit, nut or flowering tree.
So, please show up timely and plant that tree!
Dear Devotees, friends, and well wishers.
I believe that the by gone year was pretty inspiring to be more introspective to our lives and practices to all of us reflecting our personal room for improvements in many folds. Every day we are trying to grow as better devotees, sincere servants, conscious human beings, and loving persons; we promise ourselves everyday to be better than ever. Srila Prabhupada describes this journey of excellence as “War against Maya”. It is definitely challenging but not impossible. The strength we draw to continue that ‘War’ when we stand together. That is one of the most important objectives of Srila Prabhupada and Sriman Mahaprabhu, to bring us together in Krishna Consciousness. Maya weakens us through five ways as follows:
When we are critical of others.
When we complain about others but refuse to take responsibility.
When we Compare persons with others.
When we compete with others for material gain.
When we fail to develop heart to heart communication in trust and contend.
2016 is bringing us another opportunity to start anew. So let us take vows to act different ways this year to make difference trough 10 emotional deposits in our inter and interpersonal relationships as follows:
1.Seek first to Understand.
2.Keep promises you make.
4.Be kind and Courteous.
5.Think Win-Win or No Deal.
8.Give and receive Feedback.
9.Learn to Forgive.
I wish you a very prosperous year. May Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada always bestow Their unconditional mercy upon you. Hare Krishna.
Exterior Design of New Apartment Building.
By Madhava Smullen
Two new apartment buildings, consisting of three apartments each, are being erected next to New Vrindaban’s community garden and are expected to be ready to rent by spring 2016.
According to ISKCON New Vrindaban president Jaya Krsna Das, they will fulfill an immediate need for more accommodation especially during the peak summer season.
But the additional accommodation is also essential in helping along New Vrindaban’s current phase of growth — many devotees are now returning to the community or moving for the first time with their families.
“If somebody moves to New Vrindaban,” Jaya Krsna says, “They need a place to stay while they work on buying land and building their own house.”
The apartments aren’t just cheap temporary accommodation; ISKCON New Vrindaban is aiming for the highest construction quality within its budget.
Each of the two buildings will include a one-bedroom studio apartment in the basement, a two-bedroom on the first floor, and a three-bedroom on the second floor. They’ll acccommodate single people, smaller and larger families respectively. And they’ll each come with comparatively-sized, temperature-controlled storage spaces located in the basement.
The buildings are being constructed by PennKraft, a Western Pennsylvania company that prefabricates modular homes at its factory and then assembles them onsite. Quality is the same as with an onsite home, with the advantage that factory construction conserves materials and is thus more environmentally-friendly. It’s also faster, more efficient, and protected from the elements.
The foundations will be made with Superior Walls, a precast concrete system with insulated wall panels often used in green home construction. This will save energy, keep out the cold and make for an overall stronger structure.
“We’ll also use hardy board siding, which is very durable,” says construction manager Gopisa Das. “Then, in between the units, we’re using Roxul, a mineral wool that serves as both an insulator and a sound deadener.”
Meanwhile the buildings will each have insulated exterior doors to provide the best thermal barrier possible, a 50-year metal roof, and high-quality energy efficient windows that will keep the heat and cool in.
Inside, each apartment will have its own individual electric heating and cooling system, which is the rental standard and a safer option than gas.
The interior doors will be solid core oak with red oak trim, the floors a very durable solid vinyl plank, and the kitchen cabinets solid maple. Each apartment will have LED lights, which consume up to 90% less power than regular incandescent bulbs, and its own individually-controlled heating system.
Care is being put into selecting the fixtures and appliances, too.
“We’re using Schlage locks and American Standard faucets, which you only see in commercial kitchens and last virtually forever,” says Gopisa. “For appliances, we’re installing the same fridge I have at home, a Samsung side-by-side stainless steel refrigerator with the freezer underneath and very high efficiency, along with matching Samsung electric stoves.”
Outside the buildings, there will be parking for residents. And to fit in with the New Vrindaban mood and lend a uniform look to the entire masterplan, the buildings’ entrances will feature ornate columns and the same Jagannath chakra that adorns the roof of Sri Sri Radha Vrindabanchandra’s temple.
Despite the first-class construction, rent will range from only $550 to $850 depending on the size of the apartment, with water, waste water, and road maintenance included. “We’re aware of the concerns about pricing, and we wanted to make sure the accommodation was affordable to the devotees,” says Jaya Krsna.
The apartments will be constructed using a loan from Eco-Vrindaban. The plan is for both the interest and principal to go into an endowment fund for the long term care of cows in New Vrindaban.
The new apartments are the beginning of a thirty-year plan that includes thirty apartments in total, plus twenty townhouses and ten new cabins.
These additional buildings, as well a new access road connecting directly with the public road, will be constructed over the next thirty years as the need for them arises.
“This is the first time since the milk barn was erected near the temple in the 1990s that ISKCON New Vrindaban is constructing a new building,” says Jaya Krsna. “So it’s really a big step for our community as it moves into a new phase.”
Three things, according to Jaya Krsna, are needed for a community to grow: a school, jobs and accommodation.
“We have the Gopal’s Garden Homeschool Co-Op,” he says. “We have a number of very nice services to do for the temple, several devotee-run companies offering jobs, and a planned retreat center that will create additional jobs for devotees.
“Now we need more accommodation where devotees can live. Facilitating younger devotees with families moving to New Vrindaban in this way is an important step in our succession plan, and in the rejuvenation of the community itself.”
By Madhava Smullen
A group of preschool children, along with their devotee parents and grandparents, bustled excitedly into Gopal’s Garden Homeschool Co-Op for their graduation party on November 5th.
The event had ISKCON New Vrindaban president Jaya Krsna Das calling the Co-Op “community building at its best.”
Gopal’s Garden was established in New Vrindaban, West Virginia – Srila Prabhupada’s first farm community — in 2007 by Ruci Dasi. It runs to eighth grade, and teaches thirteen students in total.
Its preschool, which cares for eight children aged three to five, was an individual effort launched this April by New Vrindaban residents and parents Sundari Dasi and Mercy.
“We decided to do it as soon as my son Sanjaya and Sundari’s daughter Bhumi were the right age, so that they could be together, and play and learn with other children in the community,” says Mercy, who was born and raised in New Vrindaban and wants to pursue a career in teaching.
Mercy assists head teacher Sundari, who moved to New Vrindaban from Bangalore in 2011 and holds a Montessori teacher training certificate. Under their care from 12:30 to 3:30 each day this year, the children learned basic ABCs, counting, colors, arts and crafts, how to share, hand-eye coordination and speech development along with spiritual projects that put Krishna in the center.
The teachers’ children Bhumi and Sanjaya both attended the recent graduation party at Gopal’s Garden to celebrate their first year of school, along with Malini, Pranaya Keli, Rama Lochana, Nadia, and Harilila. Arjuna, who was absent because he was traveling with his parents, also completed the year.
The event ran from 6 to 8:30pm, beginning with everyone offering ghee lamps together to Lord Damodara, along with the classroom deities of Radha Krishna and Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra.
A video presentation entitled “Glimpses of Gopal’s Garden Preschool” followed, showing the young students’ heartwarming participation in Krishna conscious festivals throughout the year.
“For our first festival of the year, Pushpa Abhisekha, we had a picking party with the kids where we picked a bunch of local flowers here in New Vrindaban, then they pulled off the petals and showered the deities with them,” says Mercy. “It was so sweet.”
Next, the children participated in ISKCON New Vrindaban’s Rathayatra by helping to make outfits for their classroom Jagannath Deities, decorating a small cart that community members came together to build, and pulling it while having an ecstatic kirtan. All the parents then made a special offering of cupcakes and cookies to Lord Jagannath, and distributed them to the children.
On Janmastami, the students got to bathe their Radha Krishna Deities in saffron water, and take turns pushing them on a special Jhulan Yatra swing that had been constructed for the occasion.
And on October 25th, a week before Halloween, the teachers and parents got creative and held a Krishna-ized Halloween party with all the children dressed as demons from Srila Prabhupada’s book Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead. The parents then ascended a stage with their child and narrated the pastime of how Lord Krishna dispatched that particular demon.
Meanwhile in honor of the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival to the West, the children got to decorate a construction paper “Jaladuta” ship and glue blue cotton balls around it to represent the ocean.
After the video depicting all these activities, the children stood and sang classic gurukula songs like “My Name is Aghasura,” “Krishna’s Devotees Had A Farm,”and Mercy’s own composition to the tune of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” – “Krishna Has A Little Calf.” They also demonstrated their “ABCs.”
Sundari and Mercy then presented proposed plans for improving the preschool in 2016.
“As next year will be more focused on academics and learning, we will introduce a worksheet program, teaching the kids how to trace and write letters so that they can start learning how to write their own names,” says Sundari. “We’ll also start teaching them the Spanish and Sanskrit for English words they’re learning.”
Health will also be a priority. There will be more outdoor games, and yoga taught by Sundari – who has a diploma from Bangalore’s VYASA yoga university – so that the children can burn off their energy and learn motor skills. Lunch time, instead of consisting of store-bought snacks as it did this year, will feature a full meal such as rice, dahl and bread cooked by a different parent each day.
Inside the classroom, individual cubbies will be installed for each child to learn to put away their jackets, shoes and personal items.
And as always, Krishna consciousness will be a priority: a proper altar will replace the current dovetailed bookshelf. “We also want to have a couple of Laddhu Gopal Deities, so that the children can learn to dress Them and offer their food to Them,” Sundari says.
To conclude the graduation program, the children were presented with certificates. Finally, principal Ruci Dasi and president Jaya Krsna Das spoke, thanking Sundari and Mercy for their dedication and enthusiasm and praising how the school has brought the community together.
“It’s wonderful to see the kids hugging each other when they come in, and to see all the parents becoming friends,” said Jaya Krsna. “Many of them would not even know each other if the pre-school didn’t exist, as they live several miles apart from each other.”
He was glad to see the preschool training the children so early in life in Krishna consciousness, in a way that would be a challenge for their parents to do with their busy schedules. He also appreciated that the preschool gave parents, especially mothers, some much needed free time in which to rest, chant, or engage in other activities, while feeling assured that their children are being nicely taken care of.
Weeks after the graduation event, Jaya Krsna is still bubbling over with enthusiasm and appreciation for the preschool.
“For me, it’s just Krishna’s magic,” he says. “These kids are our future; and so the preschool is doing nothing less than building the future of New Vrindaban.”
BLUE HOME MUSIC CAFÉ
First there was the Blue Home Recording Studio. Then came the Blue Home Artworks Gift Shop. Now enters the Blue Home Music Café.
“Blue Home” is the brainchild of a fairly new New Vrindavan resident, Jesse Hanson, who is assisted and supported in the endeavor by Lilasuka dasi, his wife, a long-term resident of New Vrindavan. Residents and visitors to New Vrindavan used to have fun shopping at Jesse’s Blue Home Artworks Store, which was packed with original handcrafted products. Sometimes, shoppers would be content to come in and hang out, sipping ginger brew and munching on one of Dharmakala’s World’s Best Cookies.
The Blue Home Artworks Store recently closed. However, the “Blue Home” name lives on in Jesse and Lilasuka’s current Blue Home Music Café. Jesse is a lifelong songwriter and musician, who used to offer recording services at his Blue Home Recording Studio in Pittsburgh, PA. So he felt the Blue Home name would be appropriate for a homey music café in their newly-built house in the New Vrindavan area.
Jesse and Lilasuka are very interested in contributing to the re-creation of a wonderful village atmosphere in New Vrindavan, where so many of their friends are living. This desire, fueled by their strong love of making music and potentially inspiring people on their respective spiritual paths, gave birth to the Blue Home Music Café. They recognize that there are many talented songwriters and musicians in the local community. They also want to encourage artists and performing artists to hone their skills, and to give community members and guests the opportunity to appreciate the culture abounding in New Vrindavan.
The Café’s debut, Saturday, November 7, was received very well as a neighborhood event. The second café on November 21, was as lively as the first, well attended by people of all ages. They hope to continue this music-and- veggie-soup trend every other Saturday. The event features a variety of music performed by local, New Vrindavan area, musicians or performing artists.
What they say… About Blue Home Café:
Katherine, who happened to be spending the night at the Palace Lodge, dropped by the Blue Home Music Café, and commented, “Thanks for your warm and delicious welcome.” She sipped the veggie soup, while relaxing in Lilasuka’s new overstuffed armchair.
A fellow musician/percussionist, Devala (Leon) commented:
“Thank you for inviting me, these are the events that make a village…!”
This sparked a bit of “village” talk:
Lilasuka replied: “I love the ring of that word- “village”! It’s so homey. Thanks, Devala.
Plus, I love the village we live in.”
To which Devala responded: “I like that word also very much. We can say “when you are from the same village, everyone knows your name.” It brings people together.”
One young lady, who wasn’t able to attend, but who is an excellent singer, albeit sometimes suffering from “stage fright”, so is hesitant to perform at the Blue Home Music Café, offered this comment:
“So sad we missed it! Can’t wait for the next one! Do the musicians play up in the balcony? That’s a good cure for stage fright! Haha!”
Another person kindly wrote:
“We are looking forward to it. Please let me know what I can do to help. Was very nice to see and hear all the visitors in the pictures you posted.”
The board members of ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban humbly invite all New Vrindaban residents and well-wishers to participate in the upcoming weekend activities. Please see the detailed schedule below. We hope to see you all!
Friday, December 4th.
7:30 pm to 8:30 pm: Dinner Prasadam with Board Members & GBCs (at Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Temple)
Saturday, December 5th.
9:45 am to 1:30 pm: Department Head Presentations for 2015 (under the Lodge)
1:30 pm to 2:30 pm: Lunch Prasadam (at Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Temple)
2:30 pm to 5:00 pm: Community Dialog (under the Lodge)
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm: Srila Prabhupada Sangam & Dinner Prasadam (at his Palace)
Sunday, December 6th.
10:00 am to 1:00 pm: New Vrindaban Community Tour (various locations, weather permitting)
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm: Sunday Program & Feast (at Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Temple)
3:30 pm to 5:00 pm: Lifetime Community Service Appreciations (under the Lodge)
Welcome to Brijabasi Spirit
Thank you for taking the time to visit the New Vrindaban community blog. Think of visiting our blog as making a virtual pilgrimage.Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
"May cows stay in front of me; may cows stay behind me; may cows stay on both sides of me. May I always reside in the midst of cows."
Hari Bhakti-vilas 16.252