Prabhupada’s Vision: Our Mission.


Interview with Rasalila


Where is your hometown?
I am a New Yorker by birth. I was born in Brooklyn and brought up in the rural area of Rockland county, near very small town called Spring Valley. At the age of ten, I moved back to NY and lived in Queens.

What initially attracted you to Krishna Consciousness?
I was in high school when Srila Prabhupada was setting up the first ISKCON temple in the East Village. I was initially attracted to the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness. After reading some Buddhist writings called the Diamond Sutra, which I found to be interesting but not that enlightening, my reading created further questions without producing much in the way of answers.

In early 1973, I received a copy of the Back to Godhead (BTG) magazine from a very kind monk who was distributing them in the French Quarter of New Orleans. After reading only two paragraphs of Srila Prabhupada’s lecture, I felt very sure that this was it – the real thing! I knew I needed to find out more.

When did you first meet Srila Prabhupada, and take initiation?
I didn’t have the opportunity to follow up until the November of 1973 when I realized there was a temple in Coconut Grove/Miami. I was staying with my friends in Fort Lauderdale and upon request, they agreed to take me to the temple. I went there with a hope of meeting the person whose lecture I had read in the BTG. I was unsure about whether or not this would be possible but it seemed like the most important thing. I went there with this goal in mind and without any idea of what to expect. As it turned out, I never left, and I met his Divine Grace for the first time in July of 1974 – when he gave me initiation in New Vrindaban.

Can you please tell us something more about your first initiation?

Sure. My first initiation was, of course, wonderful. Whenever and wherever Srila Prabhupada visited on his US tours, there were usually large-scale initiations at that point in time -Advaita, Nirmala, and myself. We all received 1st initiation, and I believe Varsana Swami, and Kasyapa das, received second initiation.

I want to say that many, if not most of the initiates, were from other temples. His Divine Grace presided over the ceremony from a Vyasasan which had been placed on the stone steps above the “driveway”/road which ran between the temple and the hill.

Brahmananda Prabhu gave the lecture and performed the fire sacrifice. I was extremely nervous and unnerved by the thought of having to approach Srila Prabhupada in order to receive my beads- this would be my first close encounter. I was pretty shy, this was a very large group of people when you consider that so many were in New Vrindaban to see His Divine Grace- the largest devotee gathering I had ever been in. I was still quite new and easily intimidated. The walk up to the Vyasasan from my place in the arena seemed endless and climbing those few steps leading up to the Vyasasan, seemed like ascending a great mountain! It may sound dramatic but that is how it felt to me.

Once in front of Srila Prabhupada, I could see his mouth moving but really could barely understand the words he spoke (partly due to the reverberation in the sound system). And, when Prabhupada announced my new name, I was unsure of what he had said. All I could hear was the oohs and aahs from the audience.

When he was uttering my name, I flashed on that passage from the Krsna Book, “Description of the Rasa Dance” where Srila Prabhupada describes that the attractive features of Krsna and the Gopis combined together to appear “…like thunder, clouds, snow and lightning” so, it was quite mystical and I was transported to another realm. Being dazed and delighted, somehow or other, I made it back to my seat. In order to have confirmation of the name I had just received, I had to ask someone sitting next to me.

Also, when did you get 2nd initiation?
I was given the option to receive second initiation along with first initiation, but I declined it due to not feeling ready. My letter of acceptance for 2nd initiation is dated for 11/24/74, however, the fire sacrifice did not take place until a few months later- I want to say February of 1975. I believe that Bimbadhara received 1st initiation at that time.

When did you get married?
I got married to Narada Muni in May of 1974 in Miami. We moved up there in June of 1974, within a month of being married.

When/where did you hear about New Vrindaban?

I was not so aware of New Vrindaban or what was happening there. I had heard of it from the other devotees, who tended to speak about it in a sort of romantic way – open spaces, cows, beautiful deities. So that made me curious to know more about New Vrindaban. Narada on the other hand, was well acquainted with the project and the devotees there – he had previously worked with both Kirtananda swami and Kuladri during the roadshow days. He was an older devotee who knew a lot of people in the movement and was himself, very well known.

When did you move to New Vrindaban?
The Miami temple was in chaos at that moment and Narada wanted to go to New Vrindaban in hopes of finding spiritual stability and I basically agreed! It seemed like a good idea and Miami was becoming unbearably hot!

What were your main services in each decade, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and currently?
In the very beginning, I was assigned to serve breakfast prasadam and then afterwards, clean the prasadam room. In those early months, after initiation, I went on to do things like rolling chapatis and then cooking them on the old wood stoves, dressing chota Gaura Nitai. I was assigned to help Kutila to prepare for Srila Prabhupada’s upcoming visit – to re-do the Vyasasan decorations and to also decorate the Deity srngasana which, at that time, was made of wicker. You can, of course, see it in some of the older Deity photos from Bahulaban.

At one point, I was in charge of picking ALL the flowers and making ALL the garlands for ALL the farms. Amrita Prada was just very new and she was my only helper – and it was summer, so no store-bought flowers!!! We had only wild flowers and whatever was available in the rather small garden of the day.

In the fall of 1974, Narada and I started traveling for raising money by wholesaling Spiritual Sky incense. Later we would sell a jewelry line (Jagannatha Jewelry ) that was produced in Pittsburgh. I believe this continued for the next several years, primarily in the summertime.  This was the main service until the end of ’77.

Then later on, Narada was asked to be Temple President of the Columbus center and he opened a very successful Govinda’s restaurant. I became the baker for all the bread and also prepped some other basic menu items – was staying up all night to do this. I would then chant, attend mangal arotik, bathe and dress big Gaura Nitai, and take rest until it was time to start over and go to the restaurant!

The next major service change came when I was summoned to become part of the Palace crew. Myself and Mother Rupa were the only two women on the crew at that time. We started out working with Sudhanu in the casting department, helping prepare the models for casting. These were carved pieces that were going to be installed in the interior of the Palace as baseboards, cornices, window and door frames, etc.  Once these were put in place in the interior rooms of the Palace, I was engaged in “touch-up” finishing work – filing in seams and repairing any broken and damaged areas. The idea was to make them look perfect as possible and prepare them for the next step of gold leafing, which I went on to do – EVEN ON THE MAIN DOME (myself, Bhaktiniddhi, and Kuladri). That was pretty crazy, but seemed perfectly normal at the time, OMG!!!

Initially, it was just myself doing this work, then I had one helper and later as the marathon to finish Prabhupada’s Palace progressed, I was organizing the crews of dedicated souls who would come up to the Palace in the evenings, after putting in a full day of service. We had evening crews doing mostly gold leafing or preparing surfaces and mouldings on the exterior of the Palace.

I loved this service best of all. It was a wonderful and sublime meditation on His Divine Grace! I was able to connect with him in very intensely focused manner.

After a bit of a break (and a breakdown from exhaustion), I returned to full-time Palace service to work on the portico, the terrace walls, and all the things that were manifested in the years following the Palace opening.

There was still some traveling sales work going on intermittently as well until spring of 1981 when Narada was diagnosed with cancer and I was simultaneously expecting a child. My main service became taking care of my husband and then the newborn child!

As every New Vrindaban mother can tell you, if you had a baby you would probably end up working in the nursery if you did not wish to surrender to putting your child in there. So I had nursery service for a few years and then came out of retirement to work on the construction of the Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra temple in the months before the temple opening in 1983.

Also during that time period, Narada was in charge of life membership and started overseeing the guesthouse and was involved with development of the guest cabins as a timeshare program WOW! I almost forgot about that.

There was so much going on during this period of explosive growth and development! It was phenomenal, and you may want to consider Narada to be honored at some point – he was such a powerhouse.

So, I was charged with buying all the curtains and accessories for the cabins. I was responsible for hiring and supervising the cleaning staff for the Temple opening event – that is ALL the cleaning, and set-up of ALL the rooms in the new Temple building. EVERY ROOM, including the prasadam rooms, was set up to accommodate guests with either foam mats, cots or both. And there were about 15 janitors/cleaners working day and night over that festival weekend!

Every guest room in the lodge, every cabin, every room in the new temple building – every room, everywhere was full and I think there were also some tents set up outside. The guesthouse service continued until we ended up leaving the community at the end of 1985. This was originally meant to be a sabbatical, a period recuperation for Narada who had never fully recovered from his bout of cancer. But sadly, things started getting weird in New Vrindaban, Narada fell out of favor with management and we did not return.

In 2001 or 2002, I began attending Festival of Inspiration, helping out with registration and started reviving my New Vrindaban connection then in the next year or so. Gauranga Kishore, our son who took initiation from Radhnatha Swami, returned there to live and serve as a bramachari so I continued to visit more regularly. My major connection with New Vrindaban was revived in 2013 when I came to work for the summer in the guest services department – I was assisting Vasudeva in various ways but mainly as cleaning supervisor. Then I returned for the 2014, and 2015 guest seasons.

Anything specific you’d like to mention about your family? (spouse, children, siblings, parents, etc.) 
Gaura Kishore das is my only son and he has a daughter, Rati Keli, who is 7 years old. They now live in Athens, Ohio, and for this reason I am currently living there as well. He is teaching various courses in Philosophy and Ethics at 3 different colleges in the area.

Anything in particular you’d like us to highlight not yet covered? 
..I would really like to emphasize that I could only accept any “service award” on behalf of my god brothers and god sisters who were all part of an amazing community effort to make Srila Prabhupada’s vision for New Vrindaban a reality.

I felt like I was just trying to keep up. I felt I was part of something so much bigger than myself and being in the company of so many extraordinary, dedicated souls provided the inspiration that powered (and empowered) us – we were the inmates of New Vrindaban! And the community was everything for us, at that time.

Any advice to newer and future residents? (super important!)
It is important to never take anything for granted such as our service and association with devotees, to remember that this place is not ordinary, and the opportunity to perform service in the holy dhama is something very rare and special.

Keep in mind that, Krsna – Sri Sri Radha-Vrindaban Chandra, is the actual in-charge here, and He will always be the one in control! Even when it may seem otherwise. Please take care of the Deities and They will take care of you. Take care of one another and also take care of yourself – try to maintain a healthy balance between body, mind, and spirit.

 

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 10/29/2017


ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban ISKCON cows gardens Prabhupada

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 10/29/2017

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: Chaitanya Mangala (chair), Kripamaya, Ranaka, and Vraja.

Participating Advisors: Bhima, Jamuna Jivani (secretary), Jaya Krsna, Kalakantha, Makara, and Olivia.

1. Ranaka’s Monthly Report

  • Ananda Vidya is milking six cows. Milk production is approximately 19 gallons per day.
  • The veterinarian checked Malati and now estimates her due date between November and December. Sriya and Anjali are both due in February.
  • There are three heifers residing at the Temple Barn: two-month-old Lalita, 10-month-old Vamsika, and 19-month-old Jaya Radhe. Subhadra has been moved to Nandagram for breeding with Madhu.
  • Ananda Vidya continues to produce 10-12 lbs. of butter, 15 gallons of yogurt, and 1/2 gallon of ghee on a weekly basis, and delivers them to the temple. He purchased a small cheese press and has been experimenting with making colby cheese. This may be one way to process excess milk during the winter months.
  • The children from Gopal’s Garden came to the Temple Barn on Govardhan Puja to decorate the cows and feed them molasses balls, and drank warm milk.
  • During the farm conference, six or seven participants came over to the barn to assist with morning milking and become familiar with the cows.
  • The 2017 North American Farm conference was held at New Vrindaban on the weekend of October 13-15. We had a good turnout with approximately 40 people over the three days. Everyone seemed quite satisfied, as old relationships were rekindled and new acquaintances were made.
  • The potato harvest, washing, and storage is complete for the year, although with a disappointing approximate yield of only 1,000 lbs. due to an exceptionally wet spring.
  • Ray completed replacing of the underground electric line to the Nandagram pasture cabin and now the electricity has been restored. Also, he has made progress on Dharma the Bull’s outside pen expansion project at the Valley Barn, as well as on pressure washing and painting the valley board fences, when the weather has allowed. Spreading manure, chisel plowing, and disking areas in the Temple Garden still need to be done and will be pursued if the ground is dry enough. Otherwise, they will have to wait until spring.
  • Nila Gopala and his family departed for Hungary last Friday, leaving on good terms. He had completed about 80% of the work on Madhu the Bull’s shed and pen project at Nandagram. Caitanya Bhagavat (and Ray, if needed) will finish the project.
  • Caitanya Bhagavat and Balabhadra prabhu gave a ox training demonstration at Nandagram during the recent farm conference. Hari Chand showed he had been well-trained and well-cared for.
  • Caitanya Bhagavat continues to work with the ox, Hari Chand, for 1.5 hours every morning, along with Nandagram herd care, fence maintenance, and completing Madhu’s pen and shed.
  • Robert and Ranaka, along with input from Suchandra and Lila, have been working on compiling the end of the year flower and vegetable harvest totals, as well as pricing for the 2017 INV billing. The figures should be ready by the next monthly board meeting.
  • Robert has expressed an interest to learn how to operate farm equipment along with general building and fence maintenance, etc. Currently, he is assisting Ray with Dharma’s outside fence expansion project at the Valley Barn. Also, he is receiving training on operating farm equipment, and on milking.
  • Suchandra and Vidya will be giving a presentation at the upcoming joint board meeting

2. New Board Candidates

Currently, the Board has two open seats. In January, the Board will vote on the seats of the directors whose terms are expiring and review candidates for available seats. Individuals interested in getting involved with ECO-V can contact Ranaka.

3. Employee Manual

Vraja proposed an employee manual which will provide job descriptions for the various positions and outline company policies. She will work on a draft, to which others are invited to contribute and offer feedback.

4. Improving Community Culture

The Board discussed concerns over devotees, including those involved in ECO-V, leaving the New Vrindaban community due in part to considerable negativity within its culture. Several ideas were offered on how we can help to create a more positive atmosphere, both as an organization and as individuals.

5. ECO-V Website

Previously, Jamuna Jivani collected and wrote content for the website. Also, Sukhayanti contributed photos and text. Jaya Krsna and Makara are contributing photos to use.

6. Communication Person for IMCPA

Kalakantha requested Jamuna Jivani act as a liaison between ECO-V and the ISKCON Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture. The Board agreed to this arrangement.

7. 2017 Farm Conference Recap

Jamuna Jivani reported on the North American ISKCON Farm Conference that took place in New Vrindaban earlier in the month. New Vrindaban created a very pleasant setting for the conference with incredible support and service, and a beautiful facility. The whole conference ran smoothly, and the interactions among the participants were inspired. There were approximately 40 participants from USA, Canada, and Guyana. From ECO-V, Ranaka gave a tour of the Valley Barn facilities and spoke about New Vrindaban’s history of cow protection. Makara gave an informative seminar on water bath canning. Both Lalita Gopi and Ranaka were panelists in the Ahimsa Dairy Equation panel discussion.

The plan for future years is to have a similar, but larger, biennial conference, with small organizing conferences in between. IMCPA is currently scouting locations for future events. ECO-V offered to host again in 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of cow protection in New Vrindaban.

8. Autumn 2017 Joint Board Meetings

The upcoming joint board meetings in New Vrindaban will be held the weekend of November 10-12.

For regular updates please visit and like the ECO-V Facebook page.

Syama Kunda’s Brijabasi Spirit Interview – November 2017


Where is your hometown? 

Syama Kunda was raised in Cambridge, Maryland.

When & where did you get married? 

While living in Maryland in 1969, Syama Kunda met his wife Girindra Mohini, the youngest girl of 10 siblings. When he was 16 and she was only 15, they were married by her minister father.

When did you first meet devotees?

Syama Kunda initially saw the devotees chanting on the streets of Greenwich Village, New York City while on his way to Canada. He thought they had taken too many drugs. Later, while in a mall in Denver, CO, Syama Kunda and his wife met Kamalavati Dasi (also a long time NV resident), who gave them their first book: “Krsna, The Reservoir of All Pleasure.”

What initially attracted you to Krishna Consciousness? 

Syama Kunda was a Beatle kid and had been listening to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” regularly. In 1971 while working in Denver, he met some vegetarians. One day while visiting their home, he saw a Krsna Book on their counter. The attractive red picture of Radha and Krsna standing together, grabbed his attention and he asked:  “Where did you get this?” They said a few Hare Krsna devotees had come by yesterday. Syama Kunda was searching for real love, the love of sisters, brothers and friends. The Beatles songs inspired Syama Kunda & he felt if the Beatles were into Hare Krsna, it was worth checking out.

When & where did you first join ISKCON? 

After receiving the booklet on Krsna in the mall, Syama Kunda and his wife decided to go to the Sunday Feast at the Denver temple. Here Syama Kunda approached the Denver temple president about moving in and becoming a full time devotee

When/where did you first hear about New Vrindaban? 

Syama Kunda first read about New Vrindaban in a Back to Godhead magazine. The temple president of ISKCON Denver, who happened to be Tulsi das (who lives in NV), suggested that since Syama Kunda was a married man with a son, they go to New Vrindaban where there was space for families and that his talents as a carpenter would also be much appreciated there.

When did you move to New Vrindaban? 

Syama Kunda and family moved to New Vrindaban in 1971.

When & where did you get initiated? 

Syama Kunda was initiated on Janmastami day, 1972 at the Bahulaban temple in New Vrindaban during the Bhagavat Dharma Discourses given by Srila Prabhupada. Both he, his wife, along with Mother Kunti devi (Karnmarta’s mother) were all initiated the same day.

What is your favorite part of New Vrindaban? 

In the early days at New Vrindaban, Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra were Syama Kunda’s favorite part. Currently, his favorite part is Radha Kunda at Govardhan Hill near the Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple. This Holy Dham is non-different from Krsna. And when everyone is engaged in devotional service, New Vrindaban is non-different from the spiritual world.

What were your main services in each decade, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, current? 

Since Carpentry was his forte, in the 70’s Syama Kunda was instrumental in the construction of the facilities at Bahulaban which were needed to expedite the building of Srila Prabhupada’s palace: This included the first barn (the home of the first cows and many of the first devotees), the utility building (which comprised housing, the mold shop, the marble shop, the wood shop), along with the guest house. After leaving New Vrindaban in the 80’s, Syama Kunda went on to renovate the Tucson, Arizona temple and later on he spent considerable time in the Los Angeles temple working on a number of renovations, including Srila Prabhupada’s bookcase in the temple room.

What was your favorite service? 

Although he only spent his early years in New Vrindaban as a pujari, it was by far his favorite seva. He fondly remembers waking The Deities every morning before work and then putting Them to rest in the evenings. Sunday was the most special day. He would roam around New Vrindaban to gather flowers, branches and even moss to decorate the altar so that it would appear just like the forests of Vrindavan. Each Sunday he would strive to make the decorations more and more opulent.

Anything specific you’d like mentioned about your family?

Syama Kunda was happy that 8 of his children were born in New Vrindaban Dham. His daughter Vishakha was the first girl born here. He was also very grateful that his son, Kiba Jaya, had the opportunity to personally stand near Srila Prabhupada and receive a cookie from his hand. Kiba jaya also got to travel to India. Syama Kunda feels very grateful that his family had the opportunity to participate in Krishna Conscious village life in the early days.

Anything in particular you’d like us to highlight not covered above?

Although Syama Kunda began his devotional life in New Vrindaban, after leaving he spent a lot of time in the Los Angeles temple which became his 2nd home. The more he gazed upon Rukmini on the altar (Rukmini-Dwarkadish), the more She captured his heart. She made Syama Kunda cry for Krsna. So the highlight for him was working at the LA temple while begging for the mercy of Sri Sri Rukiimini-Dwarkadish.

Any advice to newer and future residents?

In the beginning of New Vrindaban, reading Srila Prabhupada’s books was put on the back burner in order to do the needful for the development of this Holy Dham. Syama Kunda felt there was a lot of misunderstanding of Prabhupada’s teachings but that has since been rectified by an increase in focus on his instructions. Syama Kunda encourages everyone to take 20 to 30 minutes every day to read Prabhupada’s books. This keeps us in a personal relationship with him.

 

ISKCON New Vrindaban Takes Steps to Rebuild Local Relationships


By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

Ratha Yatra Parade in Wheeling Downtown.

At the second annual Rathayatra in Wheeling, West Virginia – New Vrindaban’s neighboring city – on July 8th, over two-and-a-half thousand locals delighted in Lord Jagannath’s parade. When interviewed they said they loved the energy, prasadam, trying out japa meditation, and the family-friendly activities.

INV Communications director, Vrindavan das,   Mayor of Wheeling, Glenn Elliott, WV House of Delegates, Erikka Storch, and Mayor of Moundsville, Eugene Saunders.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliot spoke at the event, saying he was honored New Vrindaban had chosen Wheeling for the Festival and praising the diversity it brought to the community; Congresswoman Erikka Storch thanked devotees for sharing their culture and tradition. Meanwhile two local TV stations previewed and covered the event along with four local newspapers, including a glowing front page article.

This was an ocean away from the response to New Vrindaban devotees just a few years ago. Even recently, the national press were still dredging up past transgressions in every article; and some locals would yell at devotees to leave town when they went shopping.

But with resolution to the past crimes and scandalous behaviors, accompanied by a genuine effort from devotees to connect with their neighbors and build relationships, attitudes have gradually been changing.

Strides have been made particularly since former Bhaktivedanta College Director Jaya Krsna Das became ISKCON New Vrindaban president in 2011.

When asked during a local TV interview about New Vrindaban’s history of child abuse and other crimes, his communications director Vrindavan Das acknowledged it head on and accepted that New Vrindaban had deserved much of its negative reputation over the years.

At the same time, he said, devotees had learned from their mistakes; were now following the laws of the land; had a zero tolerance policy for child abuse; and were being better neighbors and members of their community.

With efforts like this interview, trust began to develop as the press saw devotees’ sincerity. Vrindavan Das worked hard to develop personal relationships with reporters and news directors. Gradually, the press began to approach devotees in New Vrindaban for stories.

Today, nearly every one of the community’s major events receives a positive article in at least one local newspaper, sometimes four or five; with a few front page stories a year. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a major regional newspaper with over 300,000 readers ran three stories about New Vrindaban this year. And local CBS and NBC affiliates run positive coverage of many events.

Along with the more positive press, devotees are starting to be seen less as weirdo recluses and more as valuable contributors to society. When the City of Wheeling invited different religious organizations to tackle social issues like drug addiction, for instance, they included amongst their speakers devotees such as Vrindavan Das, who suggested Krishna conscious solutions.

It’s a move toward Srila Prabhupada’s vision of New Vrindaban as a center for spiritual education. So too is is the increase in invitations devotees regularly get from professors to give lectures on Krishna conscious lifestyle and philosophy at local institutions such as Bethany College. Student groups from Ohio State University, Carnegie Mellon University, West Virginia University, Wheeling Jesuit University, West Liberty University and more regularly visit New Vrindaban for field trips.

Prabhupada also put a lot of emphasis on reaching the leaders of society. Trying to follow in his footsteps, New Vrindaban devotees have begun to build relationships with the local governor, tourism commissioner and US Senator. And next spring, many politicians and other leaders are expected to attend a VIP event for New Vrindaban’s 50th anniversary.

But perhaps nowhere is the change in attitudes more evident than amongst New Vrindaban’s neighbors. Whereas before there was mutual distrust and judgement, devotees have gone a long way towards healing relationships with the public by getting involved in their community, making friends, developing a more humble attitude and reaching out through festivals.

Festival of Colors, launched in 2012, leads these. Drawing several thousand people from neighboring areas like Wheeling and Moundsville WV, Washington PA, and St. Clairsville OH for a day of Mantra Music and color throwing, it’s growing every year.

“At first, mainly youth unfamiliar with New Vrindaban’s past came,” says Vrindavan. “But over the last two or three years, a lot of family people who have lived in the area for 30 or 40 years have started attending too, showing that we’ve started building up their trust again. Now many know us as the fun, peace-loving, colorful people.”

An open-house inviting all New Vrindaban’s neighbors for its 50th anniversary should go even further to building that trusting, mutually appreciative relationship.

Meanwhile, relationship-building has also affected tourism. Devotees are now on the board of the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB); Vrindavan Das serves as its vice president; and Prabhupada’s Palace is seen as one of the four main attractions in the county.

This official standing comes with a lot of benefits. All marketing costs are covered by the State’s tourism budget. This includes free ads in the State Travel Guide and county tourism office, and displays and brochures in two highway welcome centers on the West Virginia State border.

In addition the other three main attractions in the county – Grand Vue Park, Grave Creek Mound and West Virginia Penitentiary – also all recommend New Vrindaban to their visitors.

The result is that the number of tourists, pilgrims and visitors has considerably increased in the last few years.

What’s more, New Vrindaban recently hosted the bi-monthly West Virginia Regional Tourism Meeting for the second time on June 21st this year, with 23 representatives from five surrounding counties.

After their meeting the representatives all took a tour of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Temple, Prabhupada’s Palace, and the goshala, and asked many questions about Krishna conscious philosophy and lifestyle.

“It’s definitely got to the point where people now feel that we are part of the greater community, and that we contribute substantially,” Vrindavan says.

He adds: “Srila Prabhupada envisioned New Vrindaban as a place of pilgrimage for all. So having good relationships with our neighbors is important – it creates trust and appreciation.”

He encourages devotees at other ISKCON temples around the world to also reach out to their local officials, send press releases to the media about special events, and connect with neighbors.

“Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental movement is for everyone – so share it,” he says. “Reach out and tell people how you plan to contribute to your community and help make your country a better place.”

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 10/01/2017


ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban ISKCON cows gardens Prabhupada

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 10/01/2017

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: Chaitanya Mangala (chair), Kripamaya, Ranaka, and Vraja.

Participating Advisors: Jamuna Jivani (secretary), and Makara.

1. Ranaka’s Monthly Report

  • Caitanya Bhagavat continues to work with the oxen for 1.5 hours each morning.
  • The ox Priya has been diagnosed by the veterinarian as having an early form of genetic arthritis and is being retired from the ox program. He had been training with Hari who will continue to be handled individually until he is able to be paired with a new partner, hopefully one of the calves due soon.
  • Robert reported on the September fruit and vegetable harvest (not including the tomatoes and green beans brought to the Valley Barn for Winter Storage). The numbers given indicate pounds:

Green Beans – 76

Carrots – 24

Apples – 32

Tomatoes – 100

Kale – 12

Chard – 31

Basil – 5

Patty Squash – 17

Strawberries – 12

Blackberries – 4

  • In addition to what is listed above, Robert has been delivering to the Valley Barn processing room green beans and tomatoes for freezing. To date, 44 gallons of green beans and 33 gallons of tomatoes have been stored. This marks the end of the preserving for the season, as ECO-V’s two freezers are full.
  • Ananda Vidya is milking six cows at the Temple Barn. Milk production is holding at 20 gallons per day.
  • Ananda Vidya continues to produce 10-12 pounds of butter, 15 gallons of yogurt, and a half gallon of ghee on a weekly basis, and delivers them to the temple kitchens.
  • Malati is due in October, and Sriya and Anjali are both due in February.
  • There are three heifers residing at Temple Barn: one-month-old calf Lalita, nine-month-old Vamsika, and 18-month-old Subhadra.
  • Ray finished the hay harvest for the year. We have approximately 460 new first-cutting and 200 second – and third – cutting bales in the barn, in addition to the approximately 250 bales carried over from last year.
  • The main projects in October will include: harvesting, washing, and storing potatoes; spreading manure; chisel-plowing and disking areas in the temple garden; replacing the underground electric line to the Nandagram pasture cabin; pressure washing and painting the Valley Barn fences; and finishing work on Dharma the Bull’s outside pen expansion project at the Valley Barn.
  • Nila Gopala is working to finish Madhu the Bull’s shed and pen at Nandagram.
  • Lila is harvesting strawberries and blackberries, and weeding their spaces. She is also weeding the asparagus area.
  • Suchandra, Robert and Lila are delivering between 200-300 flowers per day to the temple. Also, Robert continues to makes vases for the temple daily.
  • Approximately 7,000 locally grown, organic flowers were delivered for Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Pushpa Abhisheka ceremony, held on September 9th.
  • Robert, Suchandra and Lila are putting the garden beds to rest for the winter and have already begun planning for next year.

2. ISKCON’s 2nd North American Farm Conference Update

Jamuna Jivani reported on the conference preparations:

  • The conference is less than two weeks away.
  • Currently, there are approximately 25 participants registered.
  • A panel discussion on the topic of ahimsa dairy has been added to the schedule. The panel will include Balabhadra, Ranaka, Lalita Gopi, and Kalakantha.
  • The seminars will primarily be held in the new Yoga Shala.
  • Three-dozen organic cotton t-shirts have been ordered for the conference, which are being sponsored by ECO-V.
  • The schedule still needs to be finalized and some supplies must be ordered.

3. Nila Gopal’s Resignation

Nila Gopal announced his plans to relocate to New Vraja Dhama in Hungary at the end of October. The ECO-V board members and advisors present expressed their appreciation for Nila Gopal and Sukhayanti’s service and contributions over the six months they have been involved with ECO-Vrindaban and wish them well in their future endeavors.

4. Process for New Board Members & Advisors

The ECO-V board has decided to implement a more formal procedure for those who are interested in being involved with the ECO-V. Interested parties should notify Ranaka via phone or email. He will act as the liaison to inform the board.

5. ECO-V/IMPCA Partnership

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to strategically collaborate with similar organizations with a goal to support and encourage mutual growth.

RESOLVED: The ECO-V Board commits to a three-year partnership with the ISKCON Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture (IMCPA), as proposed by Kalakantha prabhu.

For regular updates please visit and like the ECO-V Facebook page.

Devotee Who Grew Up in New Vrindaban Returns to Serve His Community


By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

 

 

Born to a devotee family in New Vrindaban, West Virginia in 1977, Bhagavan Bauer lived and attended gurukula there until the age of eighteen.

While he developed great friendships with the other gurukula students and has good memories of fun times with them, he also endured the kind of traumatic abuse and neglect that was unfortunately all too common in many of ISKCON’s ashram-based gurukulas at the time.

So it was no surprise that he left in 1995 to create a new life for himself. During his twenty years away, Bhagavan gained a well of experience. He worked in New York City at several different jobs, including fitness trainer, construction worker and electrician. He married his wife Ananga Manjari, and they had two sons, Nava Kishor and Nitya, now 14 and 12.

As a father, still healing from his own negative childhood experiences and looking to give his children a more wholesome upbringing, Bhagavan studied parenting techniques. To pass on his knowledge, he then became a parenting coach and educator himself – a service he still offers.

More recently, after suffering the loss of several relatives, he and his wife sought more stability in their lives. And they felt that New Vrindaban, where Bhagavan’s mother Sukhavaha lives, was the place to find that.

In August 2015, Bhagavan and his family moved back to a very different New Vrindaban – one with a revitalized focus on Srila Prabhupada’s vision, improved devotee care, and increased infrastructure maintenance. He also found dramatically better treatment of children at the local Gopal’s Garden school, where his sons now study and his wife teaches.

When he first returned to New Vrindaban, Bhagavan struggled with what he described as an unhealthy sense of entitlement towards the community due to the trauma he had previously experienced there.

“But I decided to work through it and learn to love New Vrindaban while here,” he explains. “And that, I felt, would help me heal.”

Bhagavan says he is now reconnecting with the community he grew up in – and is at the forefront of efforts to transform it and pioneer the next wave.

Since moving back two years ago, he has been serving as the construction and maintenance manager for ISKCON New Vrindaban, overseeing a team of seven. Together they are assisting the effort to physically revitalize key parts of New Vrindaban, much of which had received little maintenance over the previous thirty years.

In his two years there so far Bhagavan and his team have already done an impressive number of upgrades.

They have upgraded all the floors in the temple prasadam room and hallways with vinyl plank flooring; put in a new sink and cabinets for dishes in the prasadam room; and upgraded the guest kitchen.

The team also helped Gopisa Das finish a host of new apartments for resident devotees near the New Vrindaban Community Gardens. They built the brand newYoga Shala in a record time of four months – a 2,000 square-foot building with a sloped cathedral ceiling, windows on three sides, and a beautiful view of the swan lake. And they built the wittily named “Vishnu Maintenance Workshop” to consolidate all their own tools and make their work more efficient.

Meaningfully to Bhagavan, they also transformed the Palace Lodge ground floor rooms – which had been gurukula ashrams in the 1980s – into comfortable, modern motel rooms.

“Demolishing the old ashram was a cathartic process for me,” he says.

Currently, Bhagavan is redoing the siding on the guest lodge and upgrading the chattras and walkways around the swan lake.

Next, he and his team plan to renovate the old farmhouse at Vrindaban, where the community was originally centered, and where Srila Prabhupada stayed in 1969 – restoring a wonderful piece of history.

After receiving feedback from community members on the details, Bhagavan is also eager to help make a big improvement – upgrading the entire outside of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s temple to give it a fresh, more attractive look.

The challenge in working for the New Vrindaban construction department, according to Bhagavan, is that one doesn’t have the luxury to specialize but has to be able to do everything. So tasks can have a learning curve.

“But I like that we have a dynamic team who work together cooperatively; that we’re constantly upgrading and making New Vrindaban more beautiful; and that I get to help create nice relationships with the devotees,” says Bhagavan, who is well-respected by his team.

As the name of the department’s new workshop suggests, Bhagavan is a big believer in the “Vishnu principle” of maintenance. “The Brahma and Shiva phases might be more fun – but it takes more energy and effort to maintain, which is why Vishnu is the Supreme Being,” he says. “We want to maintain everything nicely so that the beauty of New Vrindaban can be there for years to come, and attract new generations.”

In this vein Bhagavan is also a member of New Vrindaban’s recently elected Village Council, which is working to develop a more appealing environment for families and individuals by providing community members with a stronger voice in running their community.

“New Vrindaban is ever-growing and developing, and we’re working on shifting towards a focus of how to care best for the community member,” he says. “We hope this will encourage younger generations of families to move here and help New Vrindaban grow towards fulfilling Prabhupada’s mission.”

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 08/27/2017


ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban ISKCON cows gardens Prabhupada

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 08/27/2017

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 (partial attendance), Chaitanya Mangala (chair), Kripamaya, Ranaka, and Vraja.

Participating Advisors: Bhima, Jaya Krsna, Kalakantha, Makara, and Olivia (partial attendance)

Recording Secretary: Jamuna Jivani

1. Ranaka’s Monthly Report

  • The Temple Barn crew has been milking five cows. Milk production is at 18-20 gallons per day.
  • Sita gave birth to a heifer calf this week, which will bring the milking herd up to six.
  • Malati is due in October. Sriya and Anjali are both due in February.
  • There are two heifers residing at the Temple Barn (an 18-month-old and an eight-month-old).
  • The heifer, Subhadra, was moved from the Temple Barn to Nandagram for breeding with the bull Madhu.
  • The milk cow, Usha, was moved from the Temple Barn to the Valley Barn for breeding with the bull Dharma.
  • Ananda Vidya is producing 10-12 lbs. of butter and 15 gallons of yogurt each week for the temple kitchens.
  • Hay harvest: We have 460 new first cutting, and 85 new second cutting bales in addition to the approximately 250 bales from last year. 80-100 more first cutting bales are expected along with additional second and third cutting hay.
  • Ray is pressure washing and painting the valley board fences on the days he is not in the fields.
  • Ray has begun work on Dharma the bull’s outside pen expansion project at the Valley Barn. Fill dirt has been added at the end of the cement apron on the side of the barn, and old fence has been taken down to recoup welded wire panels and posts for the new fence installation.
  • Fil has been starting each day working with the oxen.
  • While Ananda Vidya was out of town, Fil covered the morning and evening milking for three days.
  • Fil has been doing grounds maintenance and mowing at Nandagram and the flower garden, as well as feeding, cleaning, and herd maintenance at Bahulaban.
  • Ananta Gauranga, one of Fil’s cows from Canada, died unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago and Ray buried him. The cause of death is uncertain, though it is likely from “hardware disease,” ingesting a foreign object.
  • Fil has been working on the mold problem in both houses at Nandagram by bleaching, removing, and repairing walls and ceilings when necessary.
  • Fil and Tejo are making repairs and doing maintenance on the Nandagram water system.
  • There is a problem with the electrical feed to the Nandagram pasture cabin. It will be revisited once Fil returns from his initiation in Hungary this coming Wednesday.
  • Robert has been delivering summer vegetables to the temple kitchen and green beans to the Valley Barn processing room. He also picks flowers and makes vases for the temple.
  • ECO-V purchased a new 15-cubic ft chest freezer for green bean and tomato storage. Dharmakala processed 26 one-gallon freezer bags of green beans.
  • Suchandra and Lila have been picking and delivering 500-600 flowers each day to the temple. 6,000 marigolds were delivered over a three-day period for Janmastami. 2,000 flowers are expected to be picked for Radhashtami this week.

2. Farm Conference Update

Jamuna Jivani reported on the previous month’s projects:

  • Madhava Smullen interviewed Jamuna Jivani for a Dandavats article about the conference. It will be published the week of 9/4/17.
  • Sukhayanti and Jamuna Jivani have been calling all the temples and farm communities in North America to personally speak with them about and invite them to the conference.
  • Posters have been sent out to many temples and farm, as well as the Facebook event page.
  • A program at Prabhupada’s Palace has been confirmed for the evening of Friday 10/13/17 with kirtan, dipa dana, and a slideshow presentation by Sankirtana dasa.
  • The organizers have confirmed a panel discussion on the topic of ahimsa dairy featuring some of the conference speakers.
  • A special discounted price of $20 is being offered to New Vrindaban residents.

3. Sri Tulasi Manjari’s Resignation

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to acknowledge the contributions made by one of its directors.

RESOLVED: The Board reluctantly accepts Sri Tulasi Manjari’s resignation as both a board member and board chairperson.

The Board members expressed their deep appreciation for Sri Tulasi’s service and sacrifice over the past couple of years.

4. Partnership with IMCPA

Kalakantha proposed a three-year partnership between the ISKCON Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture and ECO-V. He proposed the relationship that IMCPA envisions with the two organizations working together on specific projects. ECO-V will consider this proposal and vote on it at a later date.

5. Community Center Update

The community center topic was discussed at the Village Association meeting on 8/3/17. It was concluded that a sub-committee will inquire as to the needs of the Village Association members, consider the current buildings that could potentially be used as a community center, and examine places a new building could be erected. They will develop a proposal based on these considerations.

6. Prabhupada’s Palace Restoration Grant Update

Over the past few years, ECO-V allocated grants totaling $375,000 for the Palace restoration, which have since been transferred to INV in full. This funding went toward the restoration of the main stairs, the rain water control on the middle level, and the outer wall, as well as a number of smaller repairs. At the same time, INV committed matching funds totaling $425,000, of which approximately $10,000 remains.

7. Prabhupada’s Palace Fundraising Grant Update

The $50K matching grant committed by ECO-V for the purposes of fundraising for Prabhupada’s Palace renovation is yet to be requested. INV is currently planning a campaign.

8. Talavan Housing Sites Update

Members of the Village Association are the process of creating a subgroup to research the proposed housing site at Talavan. They intend to have a defined plan by the biannual meeting in early November.

9. Jamuna Jivani as a Board Advisor

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to maintain a team of advisors.

RESOLVED: The ECO-V Board invites Jamuna Jivani devi dasi to act as an advisor from September 1, 2017 through the January 2018 annual meeting.

For regular updates please visit and like the ECO-V Facebook page.

New Vrindaban Invites All North American ISKCON Farmers To Second Annual Farm Conference


By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

 ISKCON New Vrindaban ECO-Vrindaban Farm Conference Cows Gardens

ECO-Vrindaban and ISKCON New Vrindaban are extending an invitation to every Hare Krishna temple and farm in North America to attend the 2017 Annual North American ISKCON Farm Conference from October 13th to 15th.

The Conference will be hosted at INV in West Virginia, and is organized Kalakantha Das, the GBC Minister for Agriculture and Cow Protection, along with volunteers from several farm communities.

“We also want to invite not just devotees, but anyone from the regional area who is interested in small farming, gardening or sustainability,” says conference co-organizer Jamuna Jivani Dasi.

Themed “Back to the Basics,” the aim of the conference is not only to discuss the big picture end result; but also to provide practical first steps and a support network for those who feel inspired to carry out Prabhupada’s instructions on simple living, yet lack the experience or knowledge.

ECO-V General Manager Ranaka Das, who has served at New Vrindaban for over forty years, will give participants a tour of the cow protection facilities along with a history of New Vrindaban’s cow protection program – the first in the Western World.

In his presentation “Holistic Cow Care & Ox Training,” Balabhadra Das will give everyone an hour of hands-on time with the oxen, plus an hour of cow protection philosophy according to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Balabhadra, now based in Alachua, Florida, has run his “International Society for Cow Protection” (ISCOWP) for decades in New Vrindaban, Gita Nagari and beyond.

The Farm Conference will also benefit from professionals outside the ISKCON community. James Kotcon, Associate Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at West Virginia University, will lead a workshop on how to build soils using organic practices. His techniques avoid synthetic chemicals and instead use organic matter, tillage, composts, cover crops and crop rotations.

Ken Peralta from Grow Ohio Valley will speak about Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and how to set them up. His vision is to see family farms and backyard and community gardens thrive, and have grocery stores and school cafeterias use healthy local produce.

Meanwhile in “The Ahimsa Dairy Equation,” Kalakantha Das will discuss how to plan a sustainable milking herd for an Ahimsa Dairy.

Dhruva Das and his wife Parijata Dasi from Gita Nagari farm in Pennsyvlania will add to this with a presentation on the practice, challenges and price for milk from protected cows.

And there will be a panel discussion on the Ahimsa Dairy Equation with Shyamasundara Das from Bhaktivedanta Manor’s New Gokul farm, along with many of the other presenters.

Elsewhere Vidya Dasi, who has volunteered in the gardens at New Vrindaban for more than forty years, and her colleague Suchandra Dasi will share their expertise in “Flower Production and Propagation.” This will be especially practical and helpful to devotees because local flower production is important for Deity worship in all ISKCON temples.

ECO-V board advisor Makara Dasi, who grew up in New Vrindaban and runs her own small farm in Michigan, will lead a practical canning workshop.

Russian devotee Vrajarenu Das will share insight and inspiration from the many successful farming initiatives currently going on in ISKCON Russia.

And in “The Vrindavan Village Vision of Srila Prabhupda,” Gadi Das of Murari-sevaka Farm in Tennessee will share Srila ??Prabhupada’s teachings on ideal village life? and self-sufficiency as well as lay out practical steps to achieving Srila Prabhupada’s vision.”

On the Friday evening, there will also be a Kartik kirtan at Prabhupada’s Palace and a slideshow  presentation by Sankirtan Das on Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for New Vrindaban.

The Farm Conference will be an opportunity for both current and aspiring farmers, gardeners and cowherds to learn about projects underway at New Vrindaban and other small farms around the world. And it will be a chance for them to gain skills, techniques and inspiration for their own private or community farm or garden.

“We also want to help participants network and realize that they’re not alone – that there is a whole community of people committed to similar seva all over North America, who can provide them with resources, support and inspiration,” Jamuna Jivani says.

“And finally, we hope people will get a strong sense of how important farming and cow protection is to Srila Prabhupada, and how they’re all really working towards fulfilling his desire.”

Participation in the Farm Conference costs $151 per person (on-site, 3 nights accommodations) or $108 (on-site, 2 nights accommodations).

Registration is now open at: http://farmconferences.iskcon.co/registration

Or, call 1-304-843-1600, ext.111. Participation is open to all, so organizers ask everyone to extend an invitation to congregational devotees, as well as your small farm neighbors!

Prabhupada’s Palace Gardens Enter Sustainable New Chapter


By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold ISKCON New Vrindaban Garden

Garden of Time at Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold

The gardens at Srila Prabhupada’s Palace have always been jewels that enhance the beauty of this place of pilgrimage; while themselves becoming more beautiful by serving the pure devotee.

In 2014, after a long and illustrious history, they began their transition from chemical to organic. And today, like much of New Vrindaban, there are efforts to make them more practical and sustainable so that they can continue to flourish in Prabhupada’s service long into the future.

In September 1979, when the Palace first opened, the idea was to make the gardens as elaborate as possible to reflect its opulence. Beds were laid out formally on the Palace’s multi-level terraces and patios with cast concrete borders, fountains and symmetrical designs.

Vidya Dasi was the first head gardener, starting in 1980 and transporting flowers and other plants from the greenhouse at Bahulaban. The next year, miniature roses were planted around the Palace itself, beginning the famous Rose Garden. On the second level down, dahlia gardens appeared in front of the lotus-shaped fountains. On the ground level, in the Garden of Time, a colorful mix of annuals were planted. And just inside the entrance of the property, Vidya planted two 400-foot beds, and decorated the walkways with basket planters full of geraniums and petunias.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON Gardens

Gardens & Gazebo behind Prabhupada’s Palace

By 1984, Vidya and her crew were tending to 30,000 annual flowers, 40,000 spring flowering bulbs, and 5,000 tender summer flowering plants. Flowering shrubs and evergreen trees such as white pines and Norway spruce were positioned on the front slope of the Palace, as well as many rhododendrons. Lotus flowers and lilies grew in the fountains. And with the success of a 300+ plant rose garden, devotees decided to eventually plant the entire Garden of Time with roses.

“A lot of people ask me for my garden secrets,” Vidya wrote in a Brijabasi Spirit article during the 1980s. “This is my best one. Love is service; service is love. You can’t separate them. In growing flowers for Krishna, we’re showing Him our love. It’s practical.”

After Vidya, Betty Hickey, who came from a neighboring family of farmers, became the Palace Gardens caretaker in 1985 and managed them for the next twenty-six years.

Under Betty, in 1987 the Palace Rose Garden became one of only 130 gardens in America accredited by the All-America Rose Selections (AARS), which held very high standards.

This non-profit organization ran the world’s most challenging horticultural testing program, and gave the most exceptional roses its seal of approval. It would then give five of these winning rose varieties free of charge to AARS-accredited gardens like the Palace Rose Garden every year to showcase.

At one point, the Palace Garden boasted over 100 different varieties of roses, while close to half of its 850 rose plants were AARS winners.

In addition, the AARS awarded the Rose Garden certificates of achievement for garden maintenance nine times between 1992 and 2007.

As a result, the Garden frequently made newspaper headlines and drew tourists and rose afficianados from around the country in their thousands. Serving as the tour guide, Betty would lead them around, charming them with her warmth and botanical knowledge.

In 2011, Betty retired. New Vrindaban residents praised her for her care, dedication and kind-heartedness. For her part, Betty said she had “made so many wonderful friendships over the years” and commented, “I think that it’s not work if it’s good work, and I always enjoyed my work here.”

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON Gardens

Gopa and Mukunda pruning rose bushes in Palace Gardens 2015

At Betty’s request, Gopalasyapriya Dasi stepped in to oversee the Gardens, a service that means a lot to her. Gopa grew up in the suburbs of Detroit – but working in a greenhouse as a teenager turned her towards spirituality.

“It changed my life,” she says. “I had never thought much about God, but watching the plants grow and seeing their variegatedness and tiny intricate root systems made me start appreciating the Lord’s creation.”

Gopa started working with Betty back in 2000, learning everything she could from her. So she was a perfect replacement. Starting in 2014, Gopa began implementing ISKCON New Vrindaban’s decision to shift from chemical care to a more sustainable and organic garden.

The move was made based on research showing that while pesticides and products like Round-Up control weeds and bugs, they also have many negative effects. Organic methods, devotees decided, are far better for health, the environment and of course for smelling and offering to Krishna.

Aiding devotees in the change was expert rosarian Paul Zimmerman. Paul was adamant that despite common misperceptions, roses do not need lots of chemicals to be healthy and flourish. He said it would take them several years, however, to adjust to the change and build up their immune systems naturally.

Some of the techniques included improving the quality of the soil with organic fertilizers, mulch and compost; spraying with vinegar; removing weaker varieties of roses and replacing them with naturally bug-resident strands; and putting in companion plants such as Dahlias and Blue Salvias.

As of now, the Rose Garden is gradually beginning to adjust and flourish with a more natural beauty, and is expected to really come into its own with the next couple of years. The new approach is sure to appeal to today’s more health and environment-conscious public. It’s also in line with Vaishnava principles and Prabhupada’s simple living vision for New Vrindaban.

These days, Gopalasyapriya continues to work with the roses while Mukunda Dasi is the head gardener. And under her and Prabhupada’s Palace manager Vrajakishor Das, there is another shift afoot: devotees are working to increase the overall beauty of the gardens, while simplifying the presentation so that they are easier to maintain in the long run.

The Rose Garden still grows mostly roses and is a gorgeous sight when in full bloom. Tear-shaped beds arranged in a semi-circle around the fountain are full of dozens of varieties in orange, yellow, pink, white, red, and purple. They’re peppered with delights like miniature roses, a “hot chocolate” rose and a tall red one called “Mr. Lincoln.” Between each bed are wrought-iron trellises welded by devotees and decorated with beautiful climbing roses.

But now, with a focus on simplification and with the All-American Rose Society no longer in existence, there are also other kinds of flowers in the rose garden: tulips, rhododendron and azalea bushes, vinca, dahlias and zinnias, all of which make it burst with color.

Gopa and Mukunda pruning rose bushes in Palace Gardens 2015

“In the outer walkways and gardens surrounding the Palace, we’re also starting to introduce some perennials, so we don’t have to keep planting ever year,” says Vrajakishor. “We’re simplifying the varieties, and doing more standardized color schemes. Around the exterior edge of the Palace wall, we’ve replaced what used to be a plantable garden bed with decorative stone. This highlights the architecture of the Palace more and saves a lot of labor just for that one bed!”

It’s a strategy that’s sure to keep Srila Prabhupada’s Palace Gardens attracting thousands long into the future. And Mukunda and Gopalasyapriya are delighted to work together on it.

“We started in the Gardens about fourteen years ago under Betty Hickey,” says Mukunda. “I just love Gopa – she’s a wonderful personality, one of my favorite people in New Vrindaban.”

Gopa says the same. And both add that they love serving in the Gardens, because it keeps them grounded and connected to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna.

What’s more, Gopa feels that when the Gardens are well-maintained, they add to guests’ appreciation of Prabhupada’s Palace. They also create a spiritual world-like atmosphere and reflect well on the community.

“When they are well cared for, it shows that there’s love and devotion — bhakti –  going on here,” she says with a smile.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON

Srila Prabhupada’s Murti in his Palace at New Vrindaban – 2017.

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 07/30/2017


ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban ISKCON cows gardens Prabhupada

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 07/30/2017

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: Chaitanya Mangala, Kripamaya, Ranaka, Sri Tulasi Manjari, and Vraja.

Participating Advisors: Jaya Krsna, Makara, and Olivia

Recording Secretary: Jamuna Jivani

1.      Ranaka’s Monthly Report

  • Currently milking six cows at the combined rate of 22-23 gallons per day
  • Three heifers are residing at the Temple Barn
  • The veterinarian came to check on the pregnant cows: Sita is due in approximately six weeks and Sriya is 2.5 months pregnant by first time sire Madhu from Nandagram.
  • Ray finished the goat/calf pen by attaching siding on the front of the structure and ridge vent attached on roof.
  • Lalita Gopi has been planting flowers in front of the Temple Barn.
  • Ananda Vidya is producing 10-12 lbs. of butter and 15 gallons of yogurt on a weekly basis for the temple kitchen.
  • The Kids’ Camp spent time at the Temple Barn learning how to milk along with feeding the cows bananas and taking a cow quiz.
  • Hay harvesting and storage: approximately 550 new bales are in the barn in addition to about 250 bales from last year
  • Ray cleaned out the manure from under the Temple Barn roadside roofed hay feeder this week. It will be moved to the temple gardens to compost over the winter, then spread on the beds in the spring and disked in.
  • Dharmakala is discontinuing her cookie business, which she has been running out of the Valley Barn. This space will be used for canning and freezing vegetables. Ray and Ranaka are preparing the space for its new function. Dharma has been hired to handle the processing.
  • Fil has been working on the following projects:
  • starting the first 90 minutes of his day working with the ox program
  • maintenance at Nandagram and the Temple Barn
  • helped with hay harvesting activities
  • helped with the Kids’ Camp, harvesting triticale and threshing it in bags for making fresh chapatis.
  • Robert is maintaining the Community Garden along with harvesting as things ripen.
  • Sukhayanti completed updating the ECO-V herd records on a Google spreadsheet.
  • ECO-V had a booth at the Wheeling Ratha Yatra, staffed by Fil, Sukhayanti and Ranaka. The visitors had the opportunity to turn cream into butter by shaking jars with a marble inside, and to learn about cow protection and farming.

2. 2017 ISKCON North America Farm Conference Update

Sri Tulasi Manjari and Jamuna Jivani reported on the previous month’s projects:

  • Balabhadra will give a presentation on ox training.
  • A kirtan program will be held at Prabhupada’s Palace on one of the evenings.
  •  Jamuna Jivani called all the devotee farms in North America to speak to them about the conference.
  • An email invitation has been sent to every temple in North America.
  • The flyers have just arrived and will be sent to temples and farm communities across the continent.

3. Internal Funding Request: $3.5K for November 2017 Appreciation T-shirts & Plaques

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to acknowledge the dedication of key community members, as well as offer a token of appreciation to the INV and ECO-V staff and volunteers.

RESOLVED: The Board approves up to $3,500 as a budget for plaques and t-shirts to distribute during the November meeting weekend.

4. Venkatachalapati Advisor Resignation

After a three month trial, Venkatachalapati wished to retire as an advisor. The ECO-V board members accepted his resignation and expressed appreciation for his willingness to volunteer.

For regular updates please visit and like the ECO-V Facebook page.

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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

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