When Is The Actual Birthday of New Vrindaban?

By Hrishikesh dasa (Henry Doktorski)

“If you take Srila Prabhupada’s naming of New Vrindaban as the official authorized start, then today [March 17, 2008] is the 40th anniversary of NV.”(from It is Very Surprizing)

I delight in celebrations, especially celebrations of events dear to my heart, such as the 40th anniversary of the founding of the New Vrindaban community in which I served guru and Krishna during a significant portion of my life. But when was the factual beginning of the community? When was the name “New Vrindaban” first given by Srila Prabhupada?

New Vrindaban in New York

Let it be known that Srila Prabhupada first asked Hansadutta prabhu to establish a “New Vrindaban” three months before he asked Hayagriva and Kirtanananda Swami to establish a “New Vrindaban.”

In a letter to Hansadutta (who was living in New York) dated January 22, 1968, Srila Prabhupada wrote: “The idea of opening an ashram in the near future is certainly a wish of Krishna’s. To develop our institution to its fullness, we require such an ashram without doubt. Child is the father of man, so the basic principle of any type of life is to instruct to the children from the very beginning, Krishna Consciousness. Children grow to be the topmost leaders of the human society. . . . So we have to grow children to become the head of the human society and there is great need for this. I pray Krishna that you may give a starting to such an ashram in full Krishna Consciousness. In the ashram there must be a grand temple as the deity of the ashram. . . . I think you can save money for this ashram as much as possible. The ashram may be named as ISKCON-Nagari or New Vrindaban and a separate a/c may be opened in the bank.”

New Vrindaban in West Virginia

During March, 1968, Hayagriva was living with Kirtanananda in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. Kirtanananda had seen a letter printed in the December 1967 issue of the San Francisco Oracle about a man (Richard Rose, Jr.) who wanted to open a non-sectarian ashram on his farm in West Virginia. Kirtanananda was interested and wrote to Rose, who invited him to visit. Hayagriva had stayed in touch with his spiritual master after leaving New York City, and wrote to Prabhupada about their plan to visit the West Virginia farm.

On March 17, 1968, Prabhupada enthusiastically wrote to Hayagriva in the now-famous letter, “You have New York, New England, and so many ‘New’ duplicates of European countries in the USA; why not import New Vrindaban in your country?” Neither Hayagriva, nor Kirtanananda, had even seen the land, yet already Prabhupada had invited them to construct a New Vrindaban city in West Virginia!

Kirtanananda and Hayagriva visited Richard Rose’s properties during the weekend of March 30-31, 1968, after which Hayagriva returned to his teaching duties at Wilkes-Barre Community College, visiting only on weekends, but Kirtanananda stayed on. However, it was soon discovered that there were great difficulties in establishing a New Vrindaban in West Virginia, not the least of which was the stubborn owner of the properties himself.

Hayagriva, on the recommendation of Srila Prabhupada, approached Mr. Rose and asked him to sell or lease him the entire back farm. Rose, however, would not sell the land or give a long-term lease; he insisted only on short-term leases of five years. “I don’t want one sect to take over the whole ashram. I want to leave it open for as many different kinds of people as possible. That’s the idea, you see. To leave the path to Truth open. People of all backgrounds and philosophies can come from all over the world here to seek Truth.” (Richard Rose, quoted by Hayagriva Das, The Hare Krishna Explosion, 241.)

In addition, Kirtanananda told Prabhupada in a letter that the neighbors were suspicious and backwards. When Prabhupada heard about this, he concluded: “It will be failure.”

“Mr. Rose may be very good man, but he does not know what is sectarian and what is non-sectarian. . . . If the people are backwards and suspicious, then how your scheme will be successful, in that part of the country? This movement is meant for intelligent class of men, those who have reason and logic to understand things in a civilized way, and who are open-hearted to receive things as they are. . . . But if the place is infested with such suspicious men and backward class, then how you can develop a New Vrindaban there? The circumstances as you have described them is not very favorable. Therefore I think the attempt will not be very successful. . . . Krishna Consciousness movement can be pushed forward in a favorable atmosphere. If the atmosphere is not favorable, then don’t attempt it, it will be failure.” (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, from a letter to Kirtanananda dated June 30, 1968.)

Kirtanananda and Hayagriva were in dire straits. They didn’t know whether to stay or leave. How could they continue without Prabhupada’s blessings?

New Vrindaban in Florida

When some disciples announced that a man in Florida wanted to utilize ten acres of land for a spiritual ashram, Prabhupada suggested in July that they could develop a “New Vrindaban” in Florida. “Regarding Mr. John Fugate: This news is very encouraging. As we are spreading our Krishna Consciousness in your country, we need a center in Florida, and if Mr. Fugate cooperates with this movement, certainly he will be very much benefited. So you can keep him alive by correspondence and send him our books and literature to read. So the ten acres of land which Mr. John Fugate wants to utilize for some spiritual cultivation center can well be utilized in developing a New Vrindaban. In San Francisco, they are developing a New Jagannatha Puri and in Florida we shall develop a New Vrindaban.” (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, from a letter to Dayananda dated July 7, 1968.)

August 7, 1968: the lease is signed

In the meantime, after ten months away from Prabhupada and ISKCON, Kirtanananda decided to apologize to his spiritual master and rejoin ISKCON, and he and Hayagriva traveled to Montreal during July 1968. Prabhupada “forgave his renegade disciples in Montreal with a garland of roses and a shower of tears.” (Hayagriva Das, Chant, Brijabasi Spirit, November 1981, 20.)

When Hayagriva and Kirtanananda humbly and sincerely begged for Prabhupada’s forgiveness and were accepted back into the fold, they finally became empowered by their spiritual master. When the two returned to West Virginia, the lease contract was finalized between Hayagriva and Richard Rose, Jr., and his wife Phyllis E. Rose on August 7, 1968: a ninety-nine year lease on the 132.77 acres property for four thousand dollars, a very fair price ($30.13 per acre), with an option to purchase for ten dollars when the lease expired. (Lease available for viewing at the Marshall County Courthouse.)

And so: the West Virginia property developed by Hayagriva and Kirtanananda became Prabhupada’s New Vrindaban in the West. It is all Krishna’s mercy. Krishna, of course, is in control. He could have empowered Hansadutta or Dayananda or anyone else to create “New Vrindaban” in the West, but Krishna decided to give this honor to Hayagriva and Kirtanananda.

And so, after due reflection on the events delineated in this narration, I suggest that we celebrate August 7, 1968 as the founding of New Vrindaban: the day Hayagriva signed the 99-year lease with Richard Rose. Only then, after his disciples surrendered completely to their master, and the owner of the property signed a long-term lease, Prabhupada fully gave his blessings and guaranteed the auspicious beginning of the community. May the leaders and residents of New Vrindaban always surrender completely to their eternal master, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

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