Srila Prabhupada in New Vrindaban – 1969

New Vrindaban ISKCON Prabhupada Aghasura Road

Entrance to the original New Vrindaban farm, along the start of the famed Aghasura Road, circa 1970.

Excerpted from an article written by Cintamani Dasi and previously published in the Brijabasi Spirit, October 1985.

It was May 9th, 1969. Before coming to New Vrindaban, Srila Prabhupada visited the Columbus, Ohio center. By some inconceivable good fortune I met him and was initiated. After breaking open the storehouse of love of God in Columbus, Krishna sent Srila Prabhupada to New Vrindaban to bless the ground with his lotus feet.

From Columbus two carloads of devotes went to New Vrindaban. Kirtanananda Swami and Srila Prabhupada drove in a black Lincoln. I was eager to ride in the other car that was going, but Jaya Gopal, the temple president told me, “You can’t go. Srila Prabhupada doesn’t want any bramacarinis in New Vrindaban. Only brahmacharis and married couples.” I was devastated. An Indian lady who was visiting the center asked what was wrong, and I told her. She ran upstairs and told Srila Prabhupada.

“She can come,” he said. “Tell her she can stay as long as I am there.” Srila Prabhupada was so merciful! I got back in the car. Soon, Srila Prabhupada was sitting in the front seat of the other car, and they were off. We tried to keep up with them, but it was not easy.

After a couple of hours, we were driving on the winding roads of West Virginia. Then we went down a bumpy little road and parked next to the old school house.

We (Labangalatika, Nara Narayana, Hrisikesa and I) started walking up a narrow grass path that we could barely see. I was carrying a sleeping bag and a small suitcase, and after the first mile I was wondering if I was going to make it. “Oh God! Oh Krishna! When are we ever going to get there?”

Prabhupada New Vrindaban ISKCON

Srila Prabhupada speaking with his followers outside the original New Vrindaban farmhouse, Spring 1969.

Finally, the small house came into view. As we got nearer, I saw Srila Prabhupada. He was sitting outside on the grass with several devotees around him. He was beaming. It was a beautiful, sunny, transcendental spring day. Seeing Srila Prabhupada made everything perfect. He was just sitting there, looking around at the devotees. It was obvious he really liked it in New Vrindaban.

Satyabhama brought prasadam out for the devotees, and along with Srila Prabhupada we honored the tasty prasadam. Satyabhama then served out more prasadam, but I was skipped. I was thinking, “I want more prasadam, but I don’t want to ask in front of my spiritual master.” Just then Srila Prabhupada looked at me and asked, “You want more?” Amazed, I said, “Yes.” I knew I had to be careful what I thought because Srila Prabhupada knew everything.

Later on, I looked over the “facilities.” The women – Syama Dasi, Labangalatika, and I – stayed on the second floor of the barn, above Kaliya, the cow. There was a well outside for water. In the afternoon we would literally slide down a steep hillside to Kesi Ghat to bathe. It was a little austere, but just being with Srila Prabhupada made everything ecstatic.

It was cold the first night we stayed in the barn. Morning came, and someone hit a gong – time to get up! Near the temple there was a small room where everyone put on tilak before entering the temple. Mangala arotika was so ecstatic! Srila Prabhupada would come downstairs and sit on a raised platform that had a gold pillow on it. Kirtanananda Swami would play harmonium. Sometimes Hayagriva would blow his kelp horn that was so long he practically had to stand in the kitchen to play. Everyone danced ecstatically. Afterwards, Srila Prabhupada would give classes on Srimad Bhagavatam.

After the morning program, the devotees would go to work. I washed pots and dishes. Outside the kitchen there was a wooden platform with a big tin tub on it, and I used to haul up well water and wash pots in the tub. We didn’t have scouring powder or soap. We used sand or pebbles to scrub the pots. They had to be very clean or Srila Prabhupada would complain. The best part about the service was that a few times a day Srila Prabhupada would come outside and walk right by, so even washing pots was ecstatic.

Once, when Srila Prabhupada walked by, a brahmachari was standing in front of the wooden platform playing his guitar, trying to teach me “Govinda Jaya Jaya.” He said he wanted to make a record, but since I was a new devotee, I didn’t know too much. Srila Prabhupada came over and said to him, “Why are you standing so near?” All of a sudden I could feel my face turning red. I realized that Srila Prabhupada didn’t want the women to be talking to the brahmacharis, even if it was just to learn a song. I was thinking, “I wish he would move.” But the brahmachari just stood there and said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, I was just teaching her this song.” “Oh,” said Srila Prabhupada, “You are teaching her?” And he just walked away.

After Srila Prabhupada took his lunch he always left some remnants. Often, the brahmacharis would run with his remnants into the woods, tackling each other to get the most. One day a new couple arrived. When the girl saw the brahmacharis running into the woods, she couldn’t understand the meaning of it. I explained that the remnants form the spiritual master’s plate are very potent.

On several occasions devotees came down from New York to visit Srila Prabhupada. The brothers Brahmananda and Gargamuni came one day, wearing jeans and suspenders. They came without notice, which produced some anxiety. “Would there be enough prasadam for Brahmananda?” He really could eat a lot of prasadam.

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban 1969

Srila Prabhupada & devotees enjoying prasadam near the original New Vrindaban cow barn, Spring 1969.

Although there were only a few devotees, we would still have a Sunday feast. During the feast the pots of prasadam were lined up outside. Every devotee would eat to their full satisfaction. Finished, some of the men would fall asleep on the grass near the pots, wake up later and eat more.

Srila Prabhupada’s lifestyle was so simple in New Vrindaban. Every morning his servant Devananda would heat up water in an aluminum pail over an outside fire. Srila Prabhupada would take the water and bathe in it in a little shack next to the temple. Sometimes in the morning, Srila Prabhupada would get a massage. One day Bhurijana dasa came and was taking some pictures of Srila Prabhupada getting a massage. Srila Prabhupada laughed and said, “These pictures are not for the Back to Godhead magazine!”

In the cool mornings, Srila Prabhupada would often take walks and a servant would follow, fanning him with a big leaf. I used to clean Srila Prabhupada’s room above the temple. In one closed off section he had small Radha Krishna Deities, and in the main section there was a mattress. Next to the mattress were two black trunks with some of Srila Prabhupada’s belongings and books. He used the trunks as a desk.

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban 1969

Srila Prabhupada seated in his quarters during his first visit to New Vrindaban, Spring 1969.

Early one morning, he came upstairs, surprising me. I was still cleaning his room. On the desk was a garlanded picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Srila Prabhupada took the garland off the picture and handed it to me saying, “This is from Krishna, with blessings.”

Then the day came for Srila Prabhupada to leave New Vrindaban. Srila Prabhupada walked at a brisk pace down the two mile path with all the New Vrindaban devotees behind him. I felt sad when he left but knew we couldn’t keep him there forever, although I would have liked that. We understood he had to spread Lord Caitanya’s mercy to other fallen souls.


Prabhupada New Vrindaban ISKCON Persimmon Tree

Srila Prabhupada sat outside daily under a persimmon tree, Spring 1969.

Write a Comment

Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think. Some basic HTML is allowed for formatting.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to login.

Reader Comments

Be the first to leave a comment!