Srila Prabhupada on New Vrindaban: Seven Temples on Seven Hills – July 1968

Hare Krishna Explosion Book Cover

Hare Krishna Explosion Cover

Srila Prabhupada on New Vrindaban: Seven Temples on Seven Hills – July 1968.

An Excerpt from The Hare Krishna Explosion.

By Hayagriva dasa

The Montreal temple is located in a large, grey Gothic building near McGill University. The ground floor is occupied by a commercial printing company. The upstairs bowling alley has been converted into a kirtan hall and living area for new devotees—Shivananda, Jayapataka, Hansadutta, Vaikunthanath. Now it is crowded. There has been a flurry of activity since Prabhupada’s arrival.

Kirtanananda and I visit Prabhupada in his nearby apartment. As always, it seems, Prabhupada is seated behind his footlocker, the familiar aromas of gardenias, incense and sandalwood about him. Goursundar and Govinda dasi scurry about, fretting that too many people are disturbing him. We pay our obeisances, and I offer Prabhupada yellow roses, which Govinda dasi arranges in vases.

“So how have you come?” Prabhupada asks.

“By plane from New York,” I say.

“Ah, very good. And in New York they are doing nicely?”

“Yes, Srila Prabhupada. Very nicely.”

“And what about New Vrindaban? That is doing nicely?”

“The owner has finally agreed on a long term lease,” I say, “but he wants the timber.”

“Oh, that cannot be. We must have all rights.”

“The coal rights were sold sixty-five years ago,” Kirtanananda says. “This is the case with all the properties in that area.”

“This means that if the government develops the coal industry, we may be asked to vacate,” Prabhupada says, concerned. “And no law can stop it.”

We admit that this is a point to consider.

“Yes,” he continues, “even if the government does not interfere, if some big industry moves into our vicinity, our New Vrindaban will fade away.”

I suddenly envision the little farmhouse and willow tree enveloped in a haze of smoke, the pastures invaded by steel drills abusing Mother Earth, giant smokestacks….

“New Vrindaban must be free from industrial contamination,” he says. “Industries like mining will ruin everything. Consider well the land’s future.”

“Most of the coal has already been mined through underground tunnels,” Kirtanananda says.

“Another important point,” Prabhupada goes on. “What happens to the property after ninety-nine years?”

I don’t know,” I say, not having really thought of this. “We won’t be around then.”

“But the Society will,” he says. “There must be an agreement that at the end of the lease, the property will go to us.”

This had been our oversight. Of course it must go to the Society! Great temples will be rising from the blackberries and pokeweed!

“We’ll try to get Foster to agree,” I say.

We then describe the property. As soon as Prabhupada understands where the main road is, he asks, “How do you get up to the farmhouse?”

“Well, that’s the big problem,” I admit. “It’s not really what you’d call easily accessible. But you could drive a jeep or horse and wagon up it. Otherwise, it’s a two mile walk.”

Prabhupada reflects on this a moment.

“Hm. Horse and buggy would be better,” he says at length. “You should avoid machines and become as self-sufficient as possible. And horses are pleasing to look at. They are the most beautiful of animals.”

Kirtanananda presents a quart of blackberry chutney and one of raspberry jam.

“Ah, very fresh,” Prabhupada says, sampling them. Then, serious, thinking again of New Vrindaban: “Yes, in New Vrindaban everything will be Krishna conscious because everything will be for Krishna. So building houses, tending cows, and working fields will also be bhakti-yoga. People mustn’t go there just to retire. They must be engaged. In your country, old people like to keep dogs and smoke pipes when they retire. Or they play… what do you call—?”

“Shuffleboard,” I say, thinking of the old men in Golden Gate Park. “And checkers.”

“Yes. That is what we want to avoid. We must always engage in Krishna’s service so maya cannot enter.”

“There’s no end to engagement, Prabhupada,” Kirtanananda assures him.
I think of breaking my back removing rocks from beneath the waterfalls. I think of all the wildflowers left unpicked.

“The hills and temples must all be named,” Prabhupada says. “On seven hills we will build seven main temples, as in the original Vrindaban—Govindaji, Gopinatha, Madana-Mohana, Shyamasundara, Radha-Ramana, Radha-Damodar, Gokulananda….

Sitting before him, we begin to see spiraling gold-domed temples in the West Virginia hills. Vaporous fantasies, perhaps, but so strong is Prabhupada’s confidence that for us his New Vrindaban temples seem as tangible as his tin footlocker.

“Of course, Kirtanananda, you have seen Vrindaban,” Prabhupada continues. “Remember the atmosphere? There are temples everywhere, some five thousand, it is said. That is a far distant scheme.”

A far distant scheme. I wonder if we can repair the farmhouse roof before the autumn rains.

“But now let us build at least seven temples,” he says, his eyes wide with anticipation. “The hills you can name Govardhan. There must be pastures for the cows, and ghats for bathing, like Kesi-ghat. Oh, I will give you so many names! And Kirtanananda, you can attract the neighbors with your delicious prasadam.”

Talking leisurely in the cool Montreal afternoon, Prabhupada describes New Vrindaban so graphically that we envision great lines of tourists waiting for guides to lead them through marble temples and palaces.

Every moment, Prabhupada builds and tosses out schemes to occupy thousands of devotees. On his footlocker is a lamp, some papers, and a few books. Bhagavad-gita is always within reach. I see him sitting thus eternally, looking up from the holy scriptures through his spectacles, creating whole cultures and civilizations centered about Krishna.

In the evening, Govinda dasi serves spiced puffed rice.

Prabhupada garlands us. We drink sweet yogurt, and he comments on Janardhan’s plans for a Back To Godhead in French for Canada. He is jolly, and when we pay obeisances before leaving, he says, “Yes, try for this New Vrindaban with heart and soul. And rest assured it will develop.”

For four days, Prabhupada waters the New Vrindaban devotional creeper. It is indeed a young, tender plant requiring special treatment.

On the fifth day, carrying plans, schemes, visions, and lofty aspirations, we fly back to New York, accompanied by universal royalty, the Jagannatha Deities, purchased from a Montreal import house.

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