New Leadership Brings Fresh Perspective to New Vrindaban

By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 16 Apr 2011

With a new board of professional, dedicated devotees, and a new temple president, one of ISKCON’s biggest rural communities in New Vrindaban, West Virginia looks set for a new start and a full realization of its incredible potential.

New temple president Jaya Krishna Dasa officially took up his post on the auspicious day of Gaura Purnima, with New Vrindaban devotees opening their arms to him and throwing a special welcome party.

“It really touched my heart, the way they approached me,” he says.

Originally from Switzerland, Jaya Krishna brings a wealth of both ISKCON and life experience to the table.

Before becoming a devotee, he acquired an MBA, and worked in business for twenty years, serving in marketing, sales, IT, and legal departments, and finally becoming a director of a major international software company.

One day, a sankirtan party of ISKCON devotees distributing books stopped by his house while he was out and spoke to his wife. It was the first time she had ever met devotees, although she had traveled around the world many times with her husband. She took three books, and gave one of them to her husband when he returned, insisting he read it.

Soon after, in 2003, when Jaya Krishna was fifty years old, his wife and twenty-three-year-old son both died tragically.

Deciding to quit his job and pursue a spiritual path, Jaya Krishna joined ISKCON, was initiated by Sacinandana Swami, and went on a one-month pilgrimage to India.

“Upon returning, I began looking for a service, and found that I could best use all the skills and experience I had gained in the outside world by serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission as administrative director for Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh, Belgium,” he says.

Jaya Krishna served in that capacity for seven years, dealing with fundraising, promotion, legal matters, engaging new devotees, course facilities, and construction. During his time there, the College expanded its education options from a one-year course to a full Bachelor’s Degree, and moved from a facility rented from the Radhadesh community to its own building with a library, offices, and accommodation for teachers and staff.

“Before I left, we designed a new strategy to further expand,” says Jaya Krishna, who also currently serves as chairman of the GBC succession committee. “We will be adding degrees in business administration and education, and also opening a new branch in Mayapur, India next year.”

Although Jaya Krishna brings all this experience to New Vrindaban, he says humbly that he is only a small instrument helping to bring a new perspective to an already wonderful community.

“There are many senior devotees here who have given decades of their lives to create a national Tirtha, or holy place—to build the temple, the lodge, the Palace of Gold, the cabins by the water, and the cow protection facilities,” he says. “They’ve lived very simple lives, and have given everything to Srila Prabhupada.”

Jaya Krishna feels that his contribution to this will be filling the need for someone not connected to New Vrindaban’s history; someone who can serve as a mirror so that those immersed in the day-to-day of it all can step back and see things more clearly.

“I have three goals,” he says. “The first is to help heal and unify the community; the second is to build a good structure and processes, based on normal day-to-day management rather than crisis management; and the third is long-term planning.”

One of the main areas of focus for this long-term planning is agriculture. Srila Prabhupada’s original mandate for the community, it is well-documented, included self-sufficiency and cow protection.

“Organic gardening has already been going on here for  40 years, and from my perspective and that of other devotees here, the environmental approach is the best way to attract young Americans these days,” Jaya Krishna says. “In fact, all the most recent bhaktas who joined ISKCON here came through their interest in agriculture. We invite people to come and work in the gardens, and they eat prasadam, make friends with the devotees, and end up staying and becoming devotees themselves. So development of that area holds big potential for the future.”

Another major focus for Jaya Krishna is, of course, an area he already has had much experience in at Bhaktivedanta College: education.
He has plans for expanding the primary school which was established in New Vrindaban two years ago, and the kindergarten that just recently appeared. But he also hopes for a major focus in adult education.

“Part of Srila Prabhupada’s mission for New Vrindaban was that there should be higher education here,” he says. “He also called ISKCON an educational movement, and stated that every temple should be a center for education. It’s essential for the future of our movement. Successors need proper training, and it is especially important that we hand down the mood and mission of Srila Prabhupada to the future generations, who did not have direct contact with him.”

Jaya Krishna dreams of eventually building a new guesthouse and a seminar center at New Vrindaban, where both devotees and members of the general public from major cities on the East Coast could come, stay, and be spiritually educated. Perhaps, long-term, a University is even on the cards.

With a community vision and planning process just now underway in New Vrindaban, many other plans are also being worked on—including devotee care, housing, better advertising for tourism, and better care for pilgrims.

We can sense Jaya Krishna’s enthusiasm for his new service, and thank him for responding to ISKCON America’s request for help. As chairman of the GBC succession committee, he feels that this “international cross-pollination,” as he calls it, is an important way to keep leadership in ISKCON dynamic and moving forward.

“Every so often, it’s good for, say, a temple president in Europe to decide to transfer to the U.S., or Africa, or wherever,” says Jaya Krishna. “Because with his experience in a different country, he can bring in a completely new perspective, and at the same time help himself to develop personally by steeping himself in a different culture and environment.”


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Reader Comments

Great! Let Krisna help new leader to achieve his three main goals! We are constructing a self-sufficient community in South Russia, so it is extreamly interesting for us, how the things will go in your glorious community. Jaya Prabhupada!