Department Head Reports Invigorate the New Vrindaban Community

New Vrindaban ISKCON Jaya Krsna Community Meeting

Jaya Krsna, community president, gives introductions.

New Vrindaban Fall Board Meetings 2014:

Department Head Presentations Invigorate the Community

By Madhava Smullen

 ISKCON New Vrindaban and Eco-Vrindaban’s second annual board meetings, held from November 1st to 2nd this year, shone a light on the rejuvenating rush of energy currently flowing through the New Vrindaban community and were invigorating for all the participants.

With the entire meeting open to all community members, there was a buzz of excitement as devotees bustled into the community hall at 10:00am to see what the first part of the meetings – a four-hour presentation of New Vrindaban’s 22 departments – would hold.

In his introduction, president Jaya Krishna Das reminded everyone of Srila Prabhupada’s vision for New Vrindaban as a sacred place known for cow protection, self-sufficiency, holy pilgrimage, spiritual education, and above all, loving Krishna. He said that the transformational process the community began in 2011 has now past the ‘survival’ phase and entered the phase of improvement, and spoke of the need to develop a strong and healthy relationship between the temple and the broader community.

Kicking off the presentations, Lilasuka Dasi from Communications spoke about sharing news on New Vrindaban’s website and Facebook page, the Palace of Gold Facebook, Brijbasi Spirit blog, and monthly physical newsletter “News From the Holy Dhama.” Next year she’ll continue to focus on internal communications while Vrindavan Das connects with the media.

The Deity Dept., led by Abhinanda Das, reported a more stable, punctual operation with a reliable team of pujaris and good team spirit. Visitors were inspired by the beautiful festivals including the new Pushpa Abhiseka. In 2015 the dept. will renovate the Deity kitchen and pujari rooms, build a new Tulasi Devi greenhouse, and raise worship standards by hosting the ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry’s pujari training seminar.

Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, managed by Tripad Das, had a good tourism season with lots of prasadam and books distributed to visitors from Pittsburgh and beyond.

The Palace Rose Garden, run by Gopalasyapriya Dasi, has “gone green” and plans in 2015 to develop a “Srila Prabhupada Rose” for ISKCON’s 50th.

 Palace Restoration manager Gopisa Das reported one chattra renovated; black granite being laid on the upper steps; a new fountain and benches at the lotus pond; a new drainage system; and an emergency connection to city water for the community. 2015 will see the upper steps completed, lower steps started, parking lot extended; and the railing up to the Palace renovated. There are also plans underway to renovate the Palace’s boundary wall.

Gopisa New Vrindaban ISKCON

Gopisa prabhu makes presentation.

In Construction and Maintenance, previously overseen by Gopisa and being led from November 2014 by new resident Bhakta Paul, the temple guest rooms were renovated; the parking lot elephant restored; attractive signs posted everywhere to direct guests; and all temple doors and windows are being replaced to keep in warmth. Next year Paul will renovate the swan boat house, build a new kids’ playground, and complete many other departments’ construction projects.

Next Jayarama Das spoke about Congregational Development, where nine congregation members were initiated, 3,000 japa beads and 5,000 books were distributed, and donations are up 25%. Jayarama takes guests on a guided pilgrimage of New Vrindaban, while Gaura Nataraja Das visits the local prison weekly and his online Gita classes are watched by 500. Next year, the dept. plans to start a kids’ Sunday School and increase Palace of Gold entrances by 20%.

 Sankirtan, led by Bhakta Trevor, reported distributing books and holding congregational chanting of the Holy Name every week in Wheeling, Morgantown, and Pittsburgh. 2015 plans include attracting new devotees and distributing prasadam at West Liberty University.

Bhakta Trevor sankirtan New Vrindaban 2014

Bhakta Trevor talks about sankirtan.

Sukhavaha Dasi reported that new dept. Devotee Relations opened an office in the temple with regular hours for devotees to express concerns; ran a pilot course on empathic communication; and offered counseling and conflict resolution. Next year it will open a Holistic Community Center, offer a free course to help second-gen devotees heal, and develop various support groups.

Govinda’s Restaurant, run by Vasudeva Das, hosted many tourist groups and students, and dramatically increased use of New Vrindaban’s own organic vegetables and cows’ milk. In 2015 it plans to use no commercial milk, finish its new décor, install a book display, reach out more to tour groups, and introduce popular dishes like lasagna, pie, breads and salads.

Under Vasudeva’s son Gaura Bhakta, the Guest Lodge finished seven more room renovations and replaced furniture in the cabins. Next year, it will add four new rooms with attached bath; update the cabins; introduce a uniform with name tags; start promotions and discounts; and add a desk that provides newcomers with information about Krishna consciousness.

Vrindavan Das of Festivals talked about Festival of Inspiration’s successes and challenges, increased attendance for 24 Hour Kirtan and Festival of Colors, and the first-ever Pittsburgh FOC drawing 6,000 students. Next year, the highest profile speakers in ISKCON will be invited for FOI’s 15th anniversary; 7,000 are expected at the NV FOC; and the dept. will add a public Rathayatra festival, a New Year’s Retreat and a retreat with Bhakti Charu Swami.

Board Meeting New Vrindaban ISKCON

The devotees listen attentively to the presentations.

Gopal’s Garden, the Homeschool co-op run by Ruci Dasi, reported its students learning computers, Deity worship, art, and poetry as well as standard subjects, and doing service and kirtan together. Ruci, who has been teaching at NV for over thirty years, is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the students and parents, and looks forward to having many more students.

Among other departments’ achievements, Tejomaya Das at Water and Waste Water installed a new well that doubles capacity for festivals; Vyapi Das at the Apartments upgraded three apartments and will hand over his service to Hrishikesh Das in 2015; Varshana Swami at Land Management completed the parking lot at Bahulaban and finished the Parikrama path around Lalita Kund; and the aptly-named Laxmi Honest in Accounting is improving relationships with the bank, streamlining bookkeeping processes and saving thousands as she does so.

Eco-Vrindaban’s department head presentations followed. In his introduction, chairman Navina Shyam Das outlined how the organization covers the cow protection and self-sufficiency elements of Srila Prabhupada’s vision. He showed its brand new logo, and reported how in the past year ECO-V had officially changed its name from GEETA, refined its mission statement and become an integrated auxiliary of ISKCON New Vrindaban. He also spoke about its search for a manager, and introduced Mukunda Das, who was visiting from Alachua and participating in the weekend’s activities, as a strong candidate.

Next, Ananda Vidya and his wife Lalita Gopi spoke about the Cow program, which cares for 41 cows with nine milking cows and five new male calves. The milking barn has been extended to include a ‘loafing area’; cows are receiving first-class medical care; and the temple is being supplied with milk, yoghurt, panir, and butter. Next year the dept. will use non-GMO feed for the cows; cultivate nicer grasses in the pasture; and start a program to reduce flies.

For Ox Care, Daivata Das, who worked with oxen in Srila Prabhupada’s time, showed photos of the lively young oxen Harichand and Amani working with a yoke, and said that he hopes to have them pulling a cart next year, and living in their rebuilt ox barn at Bahulaban.

 Kacey Orr at the Gardens reported a fully-planted high tunnel and hothouse greenhouse; harvesting many varieties of vegetables; a much better relationship with the temple kitchen; a new pergola with seating in the Teaching Garden; and regular guest tours. In 2015, she wants to double vegetable production; sell produce to guests on the weekends; offer internship programs for local students; and open the Garden of Seven Gates’ new rose garden for the Deities.

All presentations were deeply inspiring and reflected the progress New Vrindaban has been making lately.

“Visitors have already been saying they feel the change,” said Jaya Krishna Das, citing the need for deeping relationships and a Brijbasi mood of community spirit and unity moving into the future.

Gaura Nitai New Vrindaban's lake.

Gaura Nitai statues by New Vrindaban’s lakes.

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