Prabhupada’s Vision: Our Mission.


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.

Canadian Family’s Journey in Simple Living Takes Them to New Vrindaban


By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

 

Neither Filippo Paonessa nor his wife-to-be Sukhayanti Dasi had any previous experience in cow protection or agriculture when they met at the Toronto ISKCON temple. But they found that they were both inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s words on simple living and shared a desire to follow them practically.

Sukhayanti had grown up in Israel and traveled the world in her twenties, meeting devotees at a Rainbow Gathering in Germany in 2005. Attracted by their authenticity, she visited the farm temple of Simhachalam in the Bavarian forest and decided she wanted to join ISKCON.

Over the next few years, she became a whirlwind of service around the world: She hotfooted it across Germany organizing Rathayatras; led women’s book distribution parties in Heidelberg and London, England; organized Harinama Sankirtana weekends in Brazil, and took the Bhakti Sastri program in Mayapur.

Meanwhile in Toronto, Canada, Filippo was doing physiotherapy after sustaining an injury from his construction job, when a friend suggested he try yoga. Immediately Fil sensed that there was something more beyond the postures, and when yoga studios couldn’t give him the answers he was looking for, he decided to try the Hare Krishna temple. Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is won him over, and he never turned back.

At the time, in 2011, Sukhayanti also happened to be living at the Toronto temple, and the two started a relationship and were married. Among many things, they connected deeply on their shared understanding of what Srila Prabhupada wanted – particularly in the area of simple living.

“We had some good talks together, and we decided that the nicest way to raise a family and live a Krishna conscious life would be in a simple setting like a farm,” says Fil.

An action-oriented couple, they didn’t waste time, and began plans to purchase their own farm and protect cows right away. But first, they needed expert training. For this, they turned to Balabhadra Das of ISCOWP, which was based in New Vrindaban at the time.

“It was great – Balabhadra Prabhu is wonderful,” Fil says. “He’s very quiet, but he really works you hard. He doesn’t hold back because he wants you to experience the work as it is, and make sure you can actually handle it. When I passed the test, I didn’t just prove to him that I could do it – I also proved to myself that this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

While Fil learned how to take care of cows, train oxen and maintain a garden, Sukhayanti  assisted Balabhadra’s wife Chayadevi,  learning how to maintain and promote a non-profit organization, how to keep in touch with donors and how to run a newsletter.

“It was particularly special because they taught us not only how to take care of cows and oxen, but also the mood and philosophy behind such care,” Sukhayanti says.

After six months training with Balabhadra, Fil and Sukhayanti purchased a fifty-acre farm in Hastings, Ontario. There, they maintained themselves by growing and selling a wide variety of different vegetables. They also rescued six cows and two bulls from neighboring dairy farmers, eventually resulting in a herd of thirteen animals whom they provided sanctuary to.

Their efforts were successful and garnered much support from devotees in the Greater Toronto Area who donated to their Adopt-A-Cow program and purchased their organic vegetables. Yet with devotees unwilling to move from the city to create a community with them, the lack of association became difficult.

“We felt a deep desire to be part of a bigger community, to work with other devotees,” Sukhayanti says. “And we wanted our one-year-old twin daughters, Rangadevi and Sudevi, to grow up with devotee friends too.”

New Vrindaban, with which they had already developed a bond, seemed ideal, especially with its opportunities for service and ability to take on their herd.

So recently Fil, Sukhayanti and their girls moved to the West Virginia community, taking their seven cows and six oxen with them.

Their animals increase New Vrindaban’s herd to about eighty. Two of their oxen are almost fully trained and two are familiar with voice commands, adding more value to the New Vrindaban ox program.

Meanwhile Fil and Sukhayanti themselves bring a lot of skill to the community. Fil is putting his experience to work as a general farmhand for ECO-Vrindaban – milking cows, maintaining buildings, cutting hay, putting up fence posts, and efficiently working through a list of projects.

“For my first, I am building a bull pen for one of the young bulls who is set to breed with the cows to expand the milking herd,” he says. “What’s nice is that ECO-V’s general manager Ranaka Prabhu lets me know the priority level on projects, and then lets me take it from there – because he trusts me based on my work in Ontario.”

Sukhayanti has her hands full caring for their two young daughters, but says she likes to do service, so she has been asking for whatever volunteer work she can.

One exciting project she is putting her organizational skills to is reviving an effort maintained by the late head cowherd Amburish Das, who kept meticulous records of all the cows’ activities, births, deaths, names, parents, locations and milk production amounts in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Compiling scattered data about the cows and interviewing long-time New Vrindaban residents to fill in missing information, Sukhayanti is creating new bios for the eighty-plus herd to create a more personal connection with them. She’s also helping to fundraise for the cows’ care.

Fil, 42, and Sukhayanti, 34, are bringing some younger energy to New Vrindaban, inspiring long-time residents like Ranaka, who feel it will soon be time to pass the torch to the next generation.

The couple also encourages other younger families to consider becoming a part of Srila Prabhupada’s first farm community.

“The facilities are here,” says Sukhayanti. “New Vrindaban is one of the few communities in ISKCON that has the ability to some extent to offer jobs to devotees. They have some housing and are planning to build more. They have a school and preschool for the children – and as the mother of two young girls, it’s super important for me that they will be able to have friends. And it’s great to have a Govinda’s restaurant right onsite for when you don’t feel like cooking!”

She continues, “We love being able to attend the morning program at the temple every day, and there are always devotees at the program here. There are also many senior devotees like Malati Devi, who remind us more of Srila Prabhupada.  And the festivals like 24 hour kirtan that draw so many people are enlivening for us.”

“I think all these things are a big incentive for families who want to work with devotees, in a devotee environment – to surround themselves with devotees the whole day!” Sukhayanti enthuses. “Hopefully more and more families move here, and we can create a really young and vibrant community.”

For Fil, the possibility of doing that with Srila Prabhupada’s first farm community — “his original baby” – is exciting.

“I see the New Vrindaban community really trying to push towards fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s vision,” he says. “And that inspires us to totally give ourselves to that vision too. We just feel very privileged and grateful to be here, and to be able to contribute.”

 

 

 

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 06/25/2017


ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban ISKCON cows gardens Prabhupada

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 06/25/2017

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 (Board Chair) and Vraja.

Participating Advisors: Jaya Krsna, Makara and Olivia.

Participating Managers: Nitaicandra

Recording Secretary: Jamuna Jivani

1. Update on Kalakantha as ECO-V Advisor

Kalakantha accepted the invitation to participate as a Board Advisor. He would like ECO-V to be a partner with the ISKCON Ministry of Agriculture and Cow Protection.

2. Ranaka’s Monthly Report

  • Currently, six cows are being milked. Milk production is slightly down to approximately 22 gallons per day.
  • Sita is due to enter the milk herd at the end of July or early August.
  • Three heifers are still residing at the Temple Barn (one six-month old and two yearlings)
  • John Blakemore fixed the drainage ditch along the driveway approaching the Temple Barn, and the bank side area next to the barn which was collecting standing water.
  • Ray installed siding on three sides of the unfinished goat/calf pen next to the Temple Barn. He will add one side and some ridge vent on the roof.
  • Hay production has been on and off due to the weather this month. We now have approximately 230 new bales in the barn, in addition to the 250 bales from last year.
  • Potatoes are growing well and Ray has cultivated them once with the tractor.
  • Fil has been working on the bullpen at Nandagram along with making repairs to the Field House water system. He has also been helping with hay-making activities.
  • Sukhayanti has been setting up a new system for the herd records. Once completed, the ECO-V team will be able to access current information on each cow via a cloud document.

3. Nitaicandra’s Monthly Report

  • The Nandagram well tank has been cleaned and the system is now operating smoothly.
  • Fil is about 80% finished on Madhu’s bullpen.
  • He is continuing to clean the barn area.
  • New 600-gallon water tanks have been placed at the gutter outlets to supplement the water needed for the cows.
  • Flower gardens are growing well. 1,000 marigolds have been delivered in the last month.
  • Nandagram’s vegetable garden has been planted out with winter squash and turtle beans.
  • In the Community Garden, the triticale will be ready for harvest soon. Some will be turned into regrow to continue suppressing weeds in the soil.
  • The following have been planted: 450 tomato plants, 300 beanstalks, 300 summer squashes, 400 marigold bushes and 200 Swiss chard.
  • Both vegetable gardens have been mulched for weed suppression.
  • The berry patch has been mulched.
  • 50 lbs. of strawberries were harvested.
  • The fruit trees at Nandagram are growing many peaches, plums, and apples.
  • The Madhuban trees are producing their first fruits.
  • The raspberries are beginning to ripen.

Nitaicandra announced his resignation from ECO-V and will be leaving New Vrindaban on 7/7/17. In response, the ECO-V team members expressed appreciation for Nitaichandra’s contributions over the nearly two years he’s been involved, reluctantly accepted his notice to quit and wished him well in his future endeavors.

4. Ensuring Proper Conduct Among ECO-V Employees

The Board discussed issues regarding improper behavior among ECO-V employees and difficulties faced in enforcing proper conduct. Vraja offered to help create an Employee Policy manual.

5. 2017 Farm Conference Update

Sri Tulasi reported presentation topics for the conference have been confirmed:

  • Ahimsa Milk Equation
  • Soil Building
  • Organic Insect and Disease Control
  • Flower Production and Propagation
  • Seed Saving
  • The Russian Experience
  • CSAs

6. Community Center Update

The Village Association plans to organize a public event to discuss the new community center proposal.

7. Prabhupada’s Palace Kitchen Renovation Completion

The Palace kitchen renovation is nearly complete. There will be a grand opening celebration once it is ready. Jaya Krsna explained the pujari will start with cooking breakfast daily for Srila Prabhupada, with plans to gradually increase offerings as devotees can responsibly manage it.

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

New Vrindaban Kids’ Camp Makes Spirituality Fun


By Madhava Smullen

“We never thought a spiritual event could be so much fun – we would love to come again!” wrote one family after attending the Children’s Summer Camp in New Vrindaban last year.

“Wonderful event – we can’t wait till next year,” wrote another. “Our son says he will miss New Vrindaban very badly.”

These families are in luck. After the very well-received first New Vrindaban Children’s Summer Camp drew around 25 families from up and down the East Coast, organizers Sundari Dasi and Mercy of Gopal’s Garden Preschool are turning it into an annual event.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Kids' Camp 2017

Due to popular demand this year’s camp will be extended an extra day and will run from Wednesday July 26th to Sunday the 30th. Last year’s attendees enjoyed themselves so much that most are expected to return. Local children in and around New Vrindaban are also invited to participate.

The camp will welcome children ages 3 – 12, separating them into groups to ensure age-appropriate activities.

The fun will kick off on Wednesday with a bonfire, prasadam and ice-breakers. Every morning, the kids will greet the Deities and offer Srila Prabhupada flowers at Gurupuja, then learn yoga poses in New Vrindaban’s brand new lakeside Yogashala.

After breakfast, a variety of activities will steep them in the devotion and rural adventure of New Vrindaban. Children will get to care for the cows at the goshala, trek in the wild and learn about nature and how to identify different herbs. They’ll visit the historic site of the original Vrindaban farm and see the building where Srila Prabhupada stayed in 1969. They’ll paint terracotta pots in their own style, then learn how to transplant flowers grown in New Vrindaban into them. And they’ll learn hands-on gardening and harvesting.

The children will also do arts and crafts, where they will learn how to make jewelry and ghee whicks for the Deities. At the end of the camp, there will be competitions in freehand drawing and jewelry-making, with prizes.

“To this day Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra are still wearing jewelry made by last year’s winner!” says Sundari Dasi.

Every evening there will be exciting festivals. In Holi: Festival of Varsana, the children will spray each other with color. In Pushpa Abhisekh, they will shower small Deities of Radha-Krishna with flowers. In the Swan Boat Festival, they’ll make floating ghee lamps themselves and cast them out onto the lake as Radha Krishna glide across it. And during Rathayatra, they will get to decorate their own small chariot and pull it in a kirtan procession through New Vrindaban.

Evenings will also include campfires and stories by award-winning storyteller Sankirtan Das  from Krishna’s pastimes and the Mahabharat.

The summer camp will end with the distribution of cupcakes, certificates and prizes, as well as children getting to speak about their experience. A big Sunday Feast will round off the event.

Throughout the camp, speakers like Sankirtan Das, Gaurnataraj Das and Aruddha Dasi will give seminars on parenting, homeschooling, yoga and healing to engage the parents while their kids have fun.

“This summer camp,” says Mercy, “Is about sharing the best highlights of New Vrindaban life with families who live in cities, and don’t usually get the chance to participate in such activities.”

“It’s a hands-on experience of fun in Krishna consciousness!” Sundari adds with a grin.

Please join us for this fun Krishna conscious experience. Twenty of the twenty-five spots available for families have already been filled, so space is limited. First come, first served. Make sure to register asap! The cost is $190 per person, including lodging, meals, and activities for kids and adults.

Contact Gaurnatraj Das at 304-312-6539 or gaurnatraj@gmail.com

Or Sundari Devi Dasi at 304-312-2069 or sundaridevidasi@gmail.com

http://www.nvbhakti.com/new-vrindaban-childrens-summer-camp-2017/

 

 

Srila Prabhupada and His Palace


By Madhava Smullen  for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

Archival Research by Chaitanya Mangala Das

Prabhupada's Palace New Vrindaban ISKCON Gopisa Renovations

Gopisa highlights renovations on Prabhupada’s Palace Wall November 2016

It’s a crisp, frosty November day in the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia, bare trees silhouetted against a clear blue sky. On one hilltop, an unusually royal building stands out, sunlight glinting off its gold-filigreed domes and spires.

Participants of ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban’s winter 2016 Board Meetings, wrapped up warmly in coats and scarves, are being shown the latest renovations at Srila Prabhupada’s Palace by restoration manager Gopisa Das.

He points out the new drainage system, rose-colored steps, and weatherproof outer wall with ornate window arches, and describes plans to rebuild the Palace roof. “My concern in all of this is, ‘Am I pleasing Srila Prabhupada?’” he says. “And, am I taking care of his Palace?”

It’s the same loving service mood that devotees had when first planning to construct a home for Srila Prabhupada back in 1972, during a similarly frigid New Vrindaban winter. And if we take a trip back there, we’ll see how Prabhupada reciprocated that love, and how he had such a close connection with his Palace that it still inspires such devotion today.

As early as 1968, Srila Prabhupada was already saying that he wanted to be less involved in the day-to-day management of ISKCON, and focus more on what he saw as his top priority and longest lasting contribution – translating Vaishnava scriptures and writing his purports.

New Vrindaban’s peaceful rural atmosphere, he felt, would be the perfect setting. “If this piece of land is turned into New Vrindaban then I shall forget to return to Indian Vrindaban,” he wrote. “I am getting older and older, so actually if I get a peaceful place as described by you, the rest of my life will be continued in translating Srimad Bhagavatam and other Goswami literature…”

Srila Prabhupada first visited New Vrindaban in 1969, and again in September 1972, to give his epic Bhagavat Dharma discourses to hundreds of devotees, guests and reporters. During this second visit, he stayed in an old farmhouse on the Madhuban property with no running water, indoor toilet or shower facilities.

Prabhupada was happy to adopt the simple mood of New Vrindaban, comparing it to his old home in the original sacred Indian town. “This Vrindaban, that Vrindavan, no difference,” he said.

But New Vrindaban residents wanted their spiritual master to be more comfortable. Some of them decided they should build a nice home for him to live in during future visits, and especially if he did move to New Vrindaban long term.

Before that, however, they planned to construct a Govindaji temple, the first of Prabhupada’s seven proposed replicas of Vrindavan’s main mandirs.

But one winter’s day in 1972, as they were discussing design plans for the temple, they came across a passage in the Nectar of Devotion, in which Lord Shiva tells Parvati, “The worship of the Supreme Person is considered to be the highest. But even higher than the worship of the Lord is the worship of the Lord’s devotees.”

The message was clear. The Brijabasis decided to first construct a home for Srila Prabhupada. It would be a simple little retreat where he could retire to finish his books while his disciples took over the management of preaching work. It might, they estimated, take a year to build.

Prabhupada's Palace New Vrindaban ISKCON artistic rendering 1974

Prabhupada’s Palace artistic rendering – 1974.

But by the time the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the area dubbed “Guruban,” during a June 1973 festival, the plans had become so elaborate and ambitious that Prabhupada’s home was being referred to as his “palace.”

Devotees’ excitement escalated over the grand weekend festival, which saw five fire yajnas conducted. Srila Prabhupada was just as thrilled. “I shall go to New Vrindaban as soon as your palace is finished,” he wrote that July. “Jaya!”

The team of devotees that set about building the Palace worked with no pay and very little experience, training themselves in construction and artisanal skills. And they labored through extraordinary challenges: working in the hot sun during the summers and in freezing conditions during the winters, they had to lay drains and mix concrete by hand because there was no electricity.

“There was no running water either,” recalls Soma Das. “We would scoop the water out of mud puddles to mix the cement with. And when those dried up, we’d load plastic barrels into a wheelbarrow, walk half a mile to the Madhuban farm, draw water from the well there, and wheel it all the way back to the construction site.”

Despite all these hardships, the devotees felt fortunate and grateful to be able to render service to Srila Prabhupada in New Vrindaban. And Prabhupada boosted everyone with his loving encouragement when he came to see his Palace for the first time in July 1974.

An entourage followed him as he took a tour of the construction site, tapping the walls with his cane to make sure they were solid, and beaming as he was shown where his bedroom, bathroom, temple room and study would be.

“Srila Prabhupada,” Bali Mardan Das commented, “It says in the Krishna book that the palaces of Dwarka didn’t even need any light, because they had so many jewels on the wall.”

Prabhupada stopped walking and guestured at the devotees working on his Palace. “These devotees,” he said, “Are my jewels.”

When Kirtanananda Swami told Prabhupada the Palace would be ready soon and asked him to be patient with them, Prabhupada said, “I already am.” He added, “If you want, I am already living here.”

As he left, he personally thanked the workers, lifting their hearts.

Srila Prabhupada continued to exhibit a lot of enthusiasm for the project and for moving to New Vrindaban. In letters later in 1974, he wrote that he had “enjoyed the atmosphere of New Vrindaban” during his visit, and that “When my palace will be ready I shall go there and stay. I like very much that place, very calm and quiet.”

In September 1974, Kuladri Das visited Prabhupada in Vrindavan, India. During his stay, Prabhupada told him several times that he would like to live in New Vrindaban as soon as his Palace was ready. Later, Prabhupada’s servant Srutakirti mentioned that he would ask for updates once a month.

When New Vrindaban devotees traveled to Hawaii in January 1975 to visit Prabhupada, they showed him designs for the Palace’s windows, doors, and floors, and asked if he liked them. Laughing, he replied, “One would have to be a great fool not to like them.”

Meanwhile, the team back in New Vrindaban was working hard on the Palace, and the first signs of its future opulence began to emerge. A marble workshop was established, and marble floors were laid in Prabhupada’s bedroom and study, which devotees spent months polishing.

Thirty lotus arches were made to frame the stained glass windows. The marble floor of the temple room, with its double lotus center, was laid. Ornate capitals to top the columns were carved out of clay from New Vrindaban’s own Kesi Ghat. Devotees began construction on the roof.

The winter of 1975 was very austere. The concrete block stove in the marble shop only warmed the area three feet in front of it. Exotic marble slabs arrived frozen together. But still, devotees worked on, heartened by Srila Prabhupada’s continued encouragement.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON visit 1976

Srila Prabhupada visits his Palace – June 1976.

By the time Prabhupada visited his Palace for the second and final time in June 1976, most of the concrete work was done, and finishing work was underway. Prabhupada first visited the marble shop, admiring the saw and polisher. The construction team showed him around excitedly, while other devotees tried to peer in through the windows.

Prabhupada then toured the Palace itself, visiting the central hall, study, and his bedroom. He admired the beautiful marble inlay work, decorative arches and ornate furniture. He particularly liked his hand-carved desk topped with a solid slab of onyx, commenting, “Nowhere else in the world do I have such a desk.”

He was very appreciative and impressed that the devotees had done all the work themselves, and remarked that they were working with the special inspiration of the Lord.

Prabhupada's Palace New Vrindaban ISKCON 1976 visit

Prabhupada inspects stained glass work in New Vrindaban – 1976.

When the devotees asked him if he would really come to stay in the Palace when it was finished, Prabhupada replied that yes, he would. He then repeated what he had said during his 1974 visit, “Actually, I am already living here,” and further assured them, “Because you are all desiring it.”

Prabhupada continued asking about his Palace even up to the last time New Vrindaban devotees visited him in Vrindavan, India in late 1977, as his health was failing. In a particularly heartfelt conversation on October 6th, they showed him pictures of his beautiful prospective home. Prabhupada deeply appreciated the devotees’ handiwork, saying, “You have got so many artists. How they have learned so much?”

Commenting on New Vrindaban in general, Prabhupada said, “You are fulfilling my dream, New Vrindaban. I dreamt all these things.” He lovingly added, “And if I survive, I have a strong desire to go and live there. It will be a great pleasure.”

The devotees responded that they already felt he was living at the Palace, as they were doing Puja to him twice a day there, and Prabhupada agreed, “That is the way.”

“Would you please pray to Krishna to stay with us?” Kuladri asked, as the mood became more emotional. “Because you’re His pure devotee, Krishna will certainly grant what you pray for. So on our behalf… I think He must want you to come to the palace, Srila Prabhupada.”

“I wish,” Prabhupada replied, commenting with a wry chuckle, “Let us see which palace I am going.”

A month later, on November 14th, 1977, Srila Prabhupada physically departed this world.

When the news reached the New Vrindaban devotees, it was like a gut punch. Shellshocked, they all gathered in the only place that made sense: his Palace.

“Devotees were bereft,” recalls Varsana Swami. “It was the darkest night of our lives. We had to hold each other up – how could we go on? But we cried, and chanted together in a mood of separation, and gradually began to feel closer to Prabhupada than we ever had. Then we began to dance jubilantly. We realized that Prabhupada’s ultimate gift is service in separation.”

That mood of service in separation inspired Srila Prabhupada’s ‘jewels’ to work harder than ever to finish his Palace as an offering of love and devotion to their spiritual master. Now it was transforming from a residence into a memorial for the pure devotee.

Prabhupada's Palace New Vrindaban ISKCON Soma Das 1970s

Soma Das works on Prabhupadas Palace mid 1970s

In 1978, the Palace became recognizable as the beautiful monument we know today. The three domes were completed, and chandeliers and furniture from India installed. Landscaping work began. The marble shop ran 24 hours a day, and devotees layed blocks from dawn till dusk to complete the outer wall.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON Gaura Shakti Rsi Kumar

Rishi Kumar, Gaura Shakti & others build the wall at Prabhupada’s Palace late 1970s

The next year, the Palace was finished. With fifty kinds of the finest imported marbles, arched doorways, brass balustrades, hand-carved doors, gorgeous stained glass windows, and finely detailed black and gold domes, it was a sight to behold.

At last, during an exultant four-day festival over Labor Day in August 1979, Srila Prabhupada came home to his Palace. He might not have been physically present during the Palace opening event, but as thousands of devotees from all over the world gathered to chant in a tumultuous kirtan, carry his murti on a palanquin, and install him on his vyasasana in his Palace, there was no difference.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON Radhanath Swami Brahmananda

Prabhupada’s murti abishek at his Palace during Prabhupada Festival Radhanath & Brahmananda – early 1980s.

Prabhupada’s Palace was the first Samadhi to be completed for Srila Prabhupada in the world. To this day, it remains the only one of its kind in the West, a renowned Smriti Samadhi, or memorial shrine to ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya, and a monument to the love between Prabhupada and his disciples.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON Lotus Pond

Prabhupada’s Palace, view from his Lotus Pond.

Today, as the crown jewel of New Vrindaban, Srila Prabhupada continues to reside in his Palace, embodied through both his murti form and his instructions. There, his sincere followers can still associate with him. And that connection cannot be underestimated.

As Srila Prabhupada himself reminded the devotees during his 1976 visit, “I am already living here… because you are all desiring it.”

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON Murti

Srila Prabhupada’s Murti at his Palace of Gold.

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 05/21/2017


ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban ISKCON cows gardens Prabhupada

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 05/21/2017

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

Participating Advisors: Devala, Jaya Krsna, Makara, Olivia, Venkatachalapati

Participating Managers: Nitaicandra

Recording Secretary: Jamuna Jivani

1. Ranaka’s Monthly Report

  • Temple Barn: six cows are being milked daily (25 gallons per day); Manjari the cow has been retired from the milking herd
  • Festival of Inspiration: the Milking Barn supplied all the milk, yogurt and cream for the prasadam
  • Valley Barn: Ray has the hay equipment ready and will begin harvesting once there are three consecutive days without rain.
  • 1,500 lbs. of seed potatoes have been planted. These need to be cultivated and weeded from now until the Fall
  • Ranaka met with Kalakantha and Bhakti Caru Swami during the FOI.
  • Fil and Sukhayanti arrived and moved into the field house at Nandagram. Fil began constructing a bullpen there.

2. Nitaicandra’s Monthly Report

  • Flower Garden: the production garden at Vidya’s house is about 80% planted now with marigold and lily starters. Also, vegetables (carrots, radishes, lettuce) have been planted there.
  • Teaching Garden: the garden has been prepped for the starts to be planted.
  • Vegetable Garden: hundreds of starts are being transplanted; Triticale is doing well as it approaches the “soft dough” stage; the seed potatoes were planted
  • FOI: ECO-V presented five workshops:
    • Composting and Soil Building
    • Seed Starting and Transplanting
    • Planting a Garden of the Four Sisters: Beans, Squash, Corn, and Sunflowers in a Bed of Rolled Triticale.
    • Butter-making/Cow, Ox and Bull Care/Milking
    • Wild Edible and Medicinal Plant Identification Walk
  • Cows: Nandagram barn is being cleaned out; the new cows at Bahulaban are very gentle and are adapting well to their new home; Bahulaban barn has been cleaned out; currently working on opening the gate up again so guests can visit the cows.

3. 2017 Farm Conference Update

Sri Tulasi Manjari reported on the previous month’s activities:

  • Ranaka, Nitaicandra and Sri Tulasi Manjari met with Kalakantha during his visit and they refined the presentation topics:
  • Ox Training
  • Organic Farming
  • Milk Production
  • Flower Production
  • Ahimsa Dairy Education
  • Grow Ohio Valley has been invited to give a presentation on CSAs
  • The flyer is finished and has been shared through social media. The promotion for the conference is being enthusiastically received by interested participants.

4. Festival of Inspiration Review

The ECO-V members who presented at FOI reported that their workshops were well-received and they felt inspired by teaching them. Both the children and parents were thrilled with the Kids’ Camp that was led by Sri Tulasi & Olivia.

5. Meeting with Kalakantha and Bhakti Charu Swami

During the meeting with Kalakantha prabhu and Bhakti Charu Swami, the topic of ahimsa milk was discussed, including the realities of how increasing the milking herd would affect the overall herd, and what facilities and resources are needed to care for a herd of 200 cows over twenty years. Also, a possible processing facility was discussed. A sub-committee of Nitaicandra, Ranaka, Venkatachalapati, Jaya Krsna and Ananda Vidya was formed to research the topic.

6. Wall Street Journal Article featuring Gita Nagari Farm

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article on the movement in the U.S. to improve the treatment of dairy cows, which featured Gita Nagari’s cow protection program. Overall ECO-V is very pleased to see its sister organization get such prominent mainstream recognition. One point of concern is the article referred to Gita Nagari as “the first slaughter-free dairy in the U.S.” Chaitanya Mangala is working to correct this misnomer, as actually New Vrindaban was the first. He is requesting Gita Nagari adjust their claim to “the first certified slaughter-free dairy in the U.S.” Clarifying this is especially important as devotees in New Vrindaban begin early preparations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ISKCON cow protection in 2019.

7. Kalakantha dasa as Advisor

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

RESOLVED: The Board invites Kalakantha dasa, in his role as the ISKCON Minister of Agriculture & Cow Protection, to participate as an Advisor from May 2017 to the January 2018 Annual Meeting.

8. Talavan Property

Jaya Krsna addressed the topic of the housing shortage in New Vrindaban. The Land Advisory Committee had previously discussed possible locations for a small village, and they determined a potential location to be on one of ECO-V’s properties in Talavan, where 15-25 houses could potentially be built. He inquired as to whether ECO-V would be willing to relinquish the property for this purpose. Nitaicandra and Devala will look into this prospect and develop a proposal.

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

Community Dialog Covers Village Association, Rover Pipeline, and NV50


By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON New Vrindaban Communications

On the afternoon of March 25th—after hearing inspiring news from ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban’s various department heads—Board members and Village Association members settled in for a lively community dialog on some important topics.

Village Association Foundational Document

The first was the presentation of a foundational document for the New Vrindaban Village Association. The Association defines itself as “A loving family of Krishna devotees, spiritual aspirants and friends” whose aim is “to empower and assist devotees to happily live in, or contribute to New Vrindaban.”

The Association also votes to elect members of a Village Council, through which New Vrindaban residents can participate in the governance of their community. The first vote, which elected the first Council, was carried out in November 2016.

Council member Gaura Bhakta Das presented the foundational document. It consisted primarily of rights Village Association members are entitled to, and matching responsibilities that create a good balance of reciprocation between the individual member and the group.

These included the right to spiritual guidance / responsibility to provide spiritual guidance; right to contribute freely / responsibility to focus on what we want; right of respectful disagreement / responsibility to speak up; right of involvement / responsibility to be informed; and others.

The essence of the Village Association was also boiled down to three recommendations: aim in good faith to be spiritually conscious; be a contributing community member; and be aware of Srila Prabhupada’s intents and purposes for New Vrindaban.

After Gaura Bhakta’s presentation, there was some discussion on the meaning and implications of the rights and responsibilities. Some expressed concerns that the document may be too idealistic. Gaura Bhakta responded that the Village Association needed to develop a starting point – however the document is a living one, which can evolve with community feedback.

Success in Re-Routing Rover Pipeline

Next, Gopisa Das reported on the recent legal struggles with the Rover Pipeline and success in getting it re-routed to avoid specific sacred places in New Vrindaban.

The Rover Pipeline is a 713-mile long multi-state project, starting in West Virginia and travelling through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan before ending in Canada. It will deliver gas for distribution throughout the Midwest, Northeast, East Coast, and Gulf Coast.

Rover first contacted New Vrindaban residents two years ago saying that they were seeking eminent domain – a federal right to use private property for public use – to run one of their tributary pipelines through the community.

The route they wanted to take would have passed close to Prabhupada’s Palace and directly across Madhuban hill, where previously there was a Jagannath temple and a house Srila Prabhupada stayed in during his 1972 visit. It would have then cut right through the yard of the original Vrindaban farmhouse, where Prabhupada stayed for one month during his first visit to New Vrindaban in 1969.

Devotees met with Rover over the next couple of years but could not convince them to consider re-routing the pipeline. In February 2017, with no warning, the company announced that it had acquired eminent domain from the Federal Government, and that devotees were summoned for a federal district court hearing.

That meant ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban had just days to put together a full case against the $4.2 billion dollar project. To make matters even more daunting, Rover turned out to actually be Energy Transfer Partner (ETP), the same company that ran the Dakota Pipeline through sacred Native American land.

On the morning of the hearing, devotees organized a Harinama Sankirtana protest outside the court house in Wheeling, which was filmed by Channel 7 and Channel 9 News. Vrindavan Das also gave interviews to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and Wheeling News Register.

Gopisa and INV President Jaya Krsna Das first testified, explaining that the specific areas ETP wanted to build through were sacrosanct to Vaishnavas because of Prabhupada’s presence there. They were then directed by the judge to work out an agreement with ETP’s lawyers.

The result was that ETP agreed to re-route the pipeline away from the designated sacred spots despite having full federal support and approval. Gopisa credited this to the power of chanting the Holy Name outside the courthouse, and said it was likely that ETP did not want to face more of the kind of negative media attention that they received with the Dakota pipeline.

During Gopisa’s report, a proposal – first suggested by INV Board Director Ananga Manjari –  was made that a portion of the funds INV and ECO-V receive from ETP could be used to construct a new Community Center. A majority of those participating in the discussion warmly embraced the proposal; and a decision was made to form a Community Center planning committee consisting of Village Association, INV & ECO-V members.

“We also negotiated an agreement with ETP that they would deliver to us all the trees they cut for use in building the Community Center, as well as fixing the old Vrindaban farmhouse,” Gopisa added.

Work on the pipeline is likely to start this spring.

NV 50 Plans and New Jagannath Altar

Rounding off the afternoon, Jaya Krsna Das presented plans for New Vrindaban’s 50th anniversary next year.

NV 50 themes will be integrated into every festival throughout 2018, and there will be a major celebration at the end of September 2018. There will also be a VIP event, and an Open House day for neighbors and the local community.

Meanwhile Sankirtan Das is interviewing many New Vrindaban devotees for an oral history project so that their experiences, challenges, successes and realizations can be secured for the benefit of future generations. There are plans to create both a video and book from these interviews, along with a shorter souvenier booklet with lots of photos.

Another major offering for the 50th anniversary will be that of a new altar for Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra at the front of the temple room next year. The reasoning was that devotees currently do not get darshan of Lord Jagannath when facing the main altar during aratis, and show their backs to the Lord during gurupuja.

The move was decided based on a straw vote by residents and support from the ISKCON New Vrindaban board, GBC and ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry. The new altar will be in the spot the six Goswamis currently occupy, and will be an ornate wooden affair covered with gold and silver leaf.

Previously, Jaya Krsna promised devotees they would receive news of the move during this Spring’s weekend gathering, and the announcement was an auspicious and uplifting way to wrap up the Community Dialog.

 

A Facelift for Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold – May/June 2016 Back To Godhead


A Facelift for Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold

By Satyaraja Dasa

In the 1970s a dedicated group of devotees cooperated to build it; now a new group is determined to restore it to its former glory.

In the summer of 1965 His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada left India with a specific mission: his teacher, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, had bestowed upon him the loving task of bringing the profound spiritual wisdom of Krishna consciousness to the Western world.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Lotus Pond

Arriving in New York City that fall, Srila Prabhupada naturally felt deep separation from Vrindavan, the sacred land of Lord Krishna where he had lived for many years. There he contemplated his mission and the methods he would employ to transplant ancient Vedic wisdom in Occidental soil. While on his way to America by sea, Prabhupada particularly felt separation from the major deities of Vrindavan, “My Lords, Govindaji, Gopinath, and Radha Damodar,” as he noted in his diary.

He soon opened his first temple on the Lower East Side of New York, and then temples in San Francisco, Montreal, Los Angeles, and London. In all these temples, deities of Krishna would grace lavish altars, assuaging his feelings of separation.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Murti Altar

It is no wonder, then, that in 1968 when two early disciples, Kirtanananda Swami and Hayagriva Dasa, bought a farm in West Virginia – a peaceful, rustic environment that Prabhupada would name “New Vrindaban” – he quickly asked them to establish seven Krishna temples, reminiscent of Vrindavan’s seven major temples. Prabhupada wanted New Vrindaban to be a place of pilgrimage in the West.

“New Vrindaban should be taken up very seriously,” he wrote to Hayagriva, “because actually I want to develop a replica of Old Vrindaban. I have got ambition to construct there 7 temples as follows: 1. Radha Madan Mohan, 2. Radha Govinda, 3. Radha Gopinatha, 4. Radha Damodara, 5. Radha Raman, 6. Radha Gokulananda, 7. Radha Syamasundara.”

After visiting New Vrindaban, Prabhupada said he wanted to make it his new home. He felt comfortable there and saw it as a genuine holy place, a manifestation of the eternal Vrindavana, the spiritual world. In June 1969 he wrote to his disciple Dayananda Dasa, “I have decided that I shall spend four months in New Vrindaban and eight months in Los Angeles. That will be my regular program.”

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Construction 1970s New Vrindaban

In numerous letters, lectures, and public conversations, Prabhupada outlined the basic concept for New Vrindaban: “simple living and high thinking,” an agrarian, close-to-the-earth, Krishna conscious way of life. New Vrindaban would be a place for cow protection and for training ideal bra hmanas.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Kirtan 1990s New Vrindaban

Soon after his enthusiastic disciples started conceiving the first temple complex, Bhagavatananda Dasa, a sculptor who would eventually develop the talents of a structural engineer, suggested they first build a house for Srila Prabhupada. After all, the core of devotional life is service to the spiritual master. The proposed structure would be a place where Prabhupada could translate India’s sacred texts while appreciating the country atmosphere and the association of his dedicated disciples.

The Building Blocks of Devotion

The original plans for Prabhupada’s New Vrindaban dwelling took shape on a napkin, casually drawn by Kirtanananda Swami in 1972. But as construction proceeded, the design became more and more ambitious. It was as if Krishna Himself took over the project. The devotees were inexperienced and unpaid, since they saw their work as devotional service to Lord Krishna, and they had to face the harsh Appalachian winters. But Prabhupada’s home began to exceed their wildest expectations. While “on the job,” the devotees learned to make and use cement, cut marble and crystal, work with semi-precious stones, carve teakwood, fabricate stained glass, and apply gold leaf. Driven by an intense desire to please Srila Prabhupada, they evolved the concept of a simple home into one for an ornate palace.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Wall Renovation New Vrindaban

Much to the surprise of experts in architecture, construction, and related fields, the New Vrindaban novices gradually created an abiding monument that would be the envy of professionals. The devotees made prodigious use of marble, teak, onyx, and 22-karat gold leaf. With its mirrored ceilings, impeccable stained-glass artwork, and polished mosaic floors, the palace looked like a modern spaceship from ancient India that somehow landed in West Virginia. As if the central structure was not enough, the devotees surrounded it with exquisitely crafted terraces, turrets, manicured lawns, and, compliments of Lord Krishna, incomparable vistas.

Remembering the Builders

Though many devotees labored incessantly, whether working onsite or raising funds, the following dedicated souls were particularly instrumental.

Varshana Swami (then Kashyapa Dasa) sculpted the terraces, walkways, roadways, rose garden, pond, and causeway out of a rugged and raw Appalachian ridge. He supervised blasting crews and operated heavy equipment for over eighteen hours a day. His dedication was indispensable in setting the groundwork for the efforts to come.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Wall Renovation New Vrindaban

Sanatha Devi Dasi conducted much of the initial research and supervised the early design and construction. She had studied structural engineering at Pratt Institute in New York City, but had no idea she would be using her skills in Krishna’s service. She created blueprints and coordinated the efforts of marble layers, stained-glass fitters, plumbers, electricians, casters, and cement layers, all crucial to the early stages of construction.

Kuladri Dasa, New Vrindaban’s temple president at the time, was a significant part of the original team. He oversaw the design, coordinated the various departments, and put the final touches of gold leaf on the main structure.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Wall Renovation New Vrindaban

Nityodita Dasa rose to the challenge not only by mixing and laying cement by hand, a time-consuming chore that was new to him, but by learning how to cut marble and polish the end results like a pro.

Bhagavatananda Dasa was the structural engineer and sculptor. He supervised the construction of the 300-ton dome and sculpted the mood-inducing peacocks, elephants, and ornaments, as well as the embellished walls and columns.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Renovation New Vrindaban

Sudhanu Dasa went to India to learn carving, a talent he brought back to the Palace and taught to others.

Several devotees contributed their skills in the beaux arts, adding to the palace’s elegance: Narendra Dasa, assisted by apprentices, did a good portion of the glass work, including cutting and fashioning thousands of scraps of fine glass into intricately framed windows and novel stained-glass showpieces. Ishani Devi Dasi designed and hand crafted the magnificent chandeliers peppering the Palace, along with the jewelry decorating the deities and the Palace icons of Srila Prabhupada. Muralidhara Dasa and Vishnu Dasa created beautiful oil paintings of Krishna’s pastimes. From the vaulted ceiling of the temple room to the large portrait of Srila Prabhupada on the temple wall, all are masterworks that artfully enhance an already extraordinary visage.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold Renovation New Vrindaban

Others, like Soma Dasa, offered numerous talents to the mix: brick and marble laying, concrete work and woodwork, mold making, casting, and so on. Soma was present when Prabhupada came to visit New Vrindaban in the summer of 1974, partly to see how his “home” was coming along. When one devotee asked if the structure should be illuminated with embedded jewels, like Lord Krishna’s palace, Srila Prabhupada pointed his cane at the men and women who had been working so hard on the Palace: “These devotees are my jewels.” Endearingly, he also thanked Soma, leaving his disciple with a treasured memory.

For roughly seven years, the New Vrindaban devotees worked through grueling winters and scorching summers, spending hour after hour on scaffolds, in dry fields, in inhospitable work areas – without caring for bodily comforts. Indeed, they gave everything they had so they could offer a great tribute to their spiritual master. The Palace is an ultimate gift of love to Srila Prabhupada.

Much to the devotees’ dismay, Prabhupada passed away in November of 1977, and was thus unable to see the completion of his Palace. But because his dedicated disciples viewed their endeavor as a spiritual offering to their teacher, his physical departure did not dissuade or discourage them from completing it. In fact, they became even more determined to create an enduring monument – a memorial.

From Home to Memorial

A month before he passed away, Prabhupada reiterated how important the Palace was to him. He several times expressed his desire to get his strength back so he could visit his home away from home.

“If I survive,” he told some disciples as he lay in bed, “I have a strong desire to go and live there. It will be a great pleasure.” Then, perhaps dismissing the likelihood of recovery, he said, “Let us see to which palace I am going.”

The Palace is Srila Prabhupada’s most significant smriti samadhi (memorial shrine) in the West. His first samadhi is in Vrindavan, where his bodily remains are interred. In Mayapur is his pushpa (flower) samadhi, containing flower garlands he wore on his last day. In the New Vrindaban Palace some of his personal items are preserved.

In 2006 ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) resolved to formally recognize Prabhupada’s Palace as a “Shrine and Memorial” on a par with those in Vrindavan and Mayapur. “Srila Prabhupada’s Palace, New Vrindaban, West Virginia, USA,” the resolution states, “[is hereby] given official recognition as a Shrine and Memorial and included in the Law Book 2.3.2 Shrines and Memorials.” By housing worshipable memorabilia belonging to Srila Prabhupada, the Palace functions as a smriti samadhi in the truest sense of the phrase – anyone who visits will be naturally compelled to remember and appreciate Srila Prabhupada. His presence can be deeply felt there.

This fact gives additional meaning to Prabhupada’s poignant words spoken in 1976, while visiting the Palace a year before his passing: “I’m already living here and always will be.”

From Memorial to Palace

Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold officially opened on Sunday, September 2, 1979. The Palace lent credibility and gravitas to New Vrindaban, especially for tourists, most of whom had not previously taken the devotee community seriously. While the people and the philosophy behind the Palace might have remained somewhat inscrutable for most, many could now see that the Hare Krishna movement was something to be reckoned with. Here was a phenomenon that people could understand – a magnificent structure unique in its styling and formidable in its opulence. A sight to behold. Something to tell their children about. “Who could have created this great wonder?”

The Palace was clearly exceptional. Yogeshvara Dasa expressed this well in a July 1981 Back to Godhead article:

In its design the Palace is unique. While most churches and cathedrals reflect orthodox motifs of their culture, the Palace is a blending of Eastern and Western styles, as if to say that service to God is the universal principle of all religions. While the Eastern roots of the Krishna consciousness movement can be seen in the intricate latticework, peacock windows, and traditional marble patterns, the movement’s presence in the West is reflected in castlelike railings, cathedral-inspired arches, and bright color combinations.

In the end, the Palace was everything the devotees had hoped it would be. A commentator for The Today Show said, “You won’t believe your eyes.” Prabhupada would have been proud: Visitors came from all over the world to see what the New York Times dubbed “The Taj Mahal of the West.” At its height in the 1980s, the Palace welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. These were glory days for New Vrindaban.

The Palace Today

But during the 1980s and early 1990s a series of crimes and spiritual deviations plagued the community. The Palace fell into disrepair. Today, large pieces of the outer wall have deteriorated, sections of wrought iron have rusted irreparably, and parts of the concrete structure are crumbling away. Over the years, devotees repaired and re-painted, but there were limits to what they could do.

Today, Palace manager Vrajadhama Dasa works closely with the Marshall County Tourist Board, and the Palace still receives fifteen to twenty thousand tourists annually. But this is a far cry from the Palace in its heyday. The devotees realize that something needs to be done.

An ambitious multi-year and multi-million dollar renewal effort is in the works, with an enthusiasm that rivals the Palace’s initial construction. The Palace Restoration Committee, established in 2010, is focusing first on the outside Palace wall, and then will move on to the Palace and the grounds.

Gopisha Dasa, project manager for Palace restoration, says, “I was absolutely overwhelmed when I first saw the Palace. It was so beautiful. But what was most exciting to me was the spirit of cooperation, to see so many devotees working together for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. That same spirit is alive again, and it will facilitate, even mandate, the Palace’s new incarnation. In fact, it is now a priority to improve the entrance way and front steps by 2016 as an offering to Srila Prabhupada for the fiftieth anniversary of ISKCON.”

In 2012, CNN selected the Palace as one of the eight must-see religious sites in America.* This is no doubt a portent of things to come.

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