New Vrindaban Grows Through Care & Communication

by Madhava Smullen

Lilasuka with glasses.

Lilasuka with glasses.

Since moving back to New Vrindaban three years ago, Lilasuka Dasi has used her people skills to inspire residents to care for each other and communicate positively with one another. This, she feels, is the key to the community’s recent attempt at rebuilding and growth.

Originally from Toronto, Lilasuka first lived in the rural West Virginia community between 1980 and 2000, teaching at the day school there.

She then relocated to Pittsburgh until New Vrindaban president Jaya Krishna Das, who calls her “the mother of New Vrindaban,” invited her back to head up the communications department.

From the way she talks about the community, it’s clear that Lilasuka loves New Vrindaban deeply. And that makes her ideal for the job.

“I know the ins and outs of New Vrindaban, and am friends with just about everyone, because I lived here for so long,” she says. “It’s ideal for a deep spiritual life, and is full of interesting people. I just like people, so I like studying them and figuring out how to work with them.”

Initially, the goal of Lilasuka’s department was to establish communications amongst a variety of external groups like the media, the local municipal departments, and the academic community.

And she does nurture a relationship with some, like the Marshall County Tourist Board, whose website advertises New Vrindaban’s festivals and lists Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold as one of the top six tourist attractions in the county.

But her first priority, she felt, was to focus on internal communications amongst New Vrindaban devotees and nearby ISKCON communities.

“A lot of people didn’t know what was going on in New Vrindaban — even those who lived here!” she says. “Now many devotees tell me that they are glad to see the regular updates about what’s happening.”

lila harmonium

Lilasuka writes these updates herself and posts them once or twice a week on Brijbasi Spirit, an online newsletter started ten years ago which she has helped expand from an agrarian-focused publication to a broader community-wide news service.

“I post interviews with devotees, write articles about festivals, and announce seminars, new calf births and more,” she says. “I also write almost every day on the New Vrindaban Facebook page, and have helped to rewrite the community’s official website to make it more accessible.”

As well as keeping devotees informed, Lilasuka’s service has also naturally evolved into devotee care.

“My office has become like a revolving door,” she says. “People come looking for help or advice.”

Some come complaining about other devotees or management, too. Lilasuka encourages them to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. She offers to go with them to discuss their differences with other department staff, or with community president Jaya Krishna. She even helps couples who may be having difficulties in their relationships.

“A lot of misunderstandings come from miscommunications,” she says. She adds that her work has helped devotees embrace a positive attitude and has improved their support of New Vrindaban’s new leadership.

Lilasuka also provides practical care for New Vrindaban residents, and encourages others to help.

“It’s been snowing every day here for weeks, and some of the older devotees can’t even get out of their houses,” she says. “So I’ve been shopping for them or helping them to find rides. I have helpers too. One devotee drives some of the single women who don’t have cars into town to do their shopping every week.”

Lilasuka also recently arranged for the local Department of Health and Human Resources to give a seminar at New Vrindaban on how to apply for President Obama’s mandatory new healthcare plan. Around twenty-five devotees attended. Many expressed their appreciation for making the process a lot easier for them.

Lilasuka has also helped facilitate Canada-based homeopathic doctor Visvadhika Dasi to visit New Vrindaban every few months to care for ill devotees. All this kind of care and communication, she feels, is essential.

“New Vrindaban is such a big place,” she says. “Sometimes people can can get lost here, or feel like they’re not being looked after. There’s definitely a need for that, that I’m trying to fill.”

Lilasuka plans to continue building on this work. One of her most recent steps has been to join the New Vrindaban Community Advocacy Group, an organization formed in December 2013 and comprising of residents rather than management.

“We want to be advocates of devotees in the community who feel they don’t have a voice,” she says. “Our first topic is devotee care: we’ve already had volunteers help older devotees by bringing them basic necessities such as firewood and water.”

As far as communications is concerned, she’s working with North American ISKCON Communications Director Keshava Das on a new print and online newsletter, with news from New Vrindaban’s different departments.

She also hopes to add more staff to the communications department and to increase its outreach efforts amongst other local groups. Already, media communications for festivals is being handled by the aptly named Vrindavan Das.

Lilasuka is clearly excited by her service, and how it can help New Vrindaban in its current rebuilding phase.

“I think it’s making more people aware that working together cooperatively, caring for each other and communicating properly with each other is the key to helping New Vrindaban grow,” she says.

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Reader Comments

Sorry, comments are closed.