Syama Kunda’s Brijabasi Spirit Interview – November 2017

Where is your hometown? 

Syama Kunda was raised in Cambridge, Maryland.

When & where did you get married? 

While living in Maryland in 1969, Syama Kunda met his wife Girindra Mohini, the youngest girl of 10 siblings. When he was 16 and she was only 15, they were married by her minister father.

When did you first meet devotees?

Syama Kunda initially saw the devotees chanting on the streets of Greenwich Village, New York City while on his way to Canada. He thought they had taken too many drugs. Later, while in a mall in Denver, CO, Syama Kunda and his wife met Kamalavati Dasi (also a long time NV resident), who gave them their first book: “Krsna, The Reservoir of All Pleasure.”

What initially attracted you to Krishna Consciousness? 

Syama Kunda was a Beatle kid and had been listening to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” regularly. In 1971 while working in Denver, he met some vegetarians. One day while visiting their home, he saw a Krsna Book on their counter. The attractive red picture of Radha and Krsna standing together, grabbed his attention and he asked:  “Where did you get this?” They said a few Hare Krsna devotees had come by yesterday. Syama Kunda was searching for real love, the love of sisters, brothers and friends. The Beatles songs inspired Syama Kunda & he felt if the Beatles were into Hare Krsna, it was worth checking out.

When & where did you first join ISKCON? 

After receiving the booklet on Krsna in the mall, Syama Kunda and his wife decided to go to the Sunday Feast at the Denver temple. Here Syama Kunda approached the Denver temple president about moving in and becoming a full time devotee

When/where did you first hear about New Vrindaban? 

Syama Kunda first read about New Vrindaban in a Back to Godhead magazine. The temple president of ISKCON Denver, who happened to be Tulsi das (who lives in NV), suggested that since Syama Kunda was a married man with a son, they go to New Vrindaban where there was space for families and that his talents as a carpenter would also be much appreciated there.

When did you move to New Vrindaban? 

Syama Kunda and family moved to New Vrindaban in 1971.

When & where did you get initiated? 

Syama Kunda was initiated on Janmastami day, 1972 at the Bahulaban temple in New Vrindaban during the Bhagavat Dharma Discourses given by Srila Prabhupada. Both he, his wife, along with Mother Kunti devi (Karnmarta’s mother) were all initiated the same day.

What is your favorite part of New Vrindaban? 

In the early days at New Vrindaban, Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra were Syama Kunda’s favorite part. Currently, his favorite part is Radha Kunda at Govardhan Hill near the Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple. This Holy Dham is non-different from Krsna. And when everyone is engaged in devotional service, New Vrindaban is non-different from the spiritual world.

What were your main services in each decade, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, current? 

Since Carpentry was his forte, in the 70’s Syama Kunda was instrumental in the construction of the facilities at Bahulaban which were needed to expedite the building of Srila Prabhupada’s palace: This included the first barn (the home of the first cows and many of the first devotees), the utility building (which comprised housing, the mold shop, the marble shop, the wood shop), along with the guest house. After leaving New Vrindaban in the 80’s, Syama Kunda went on to renovate the Tucson, Arizona temple and later on he spent considerable time in the Los Angeles temple working on a number of renovations, including Srila Prabhupada’s bookcase in the temple room.

What was your favorite service? 

Although he only spent his early years in New Vrindaban as a pujari, it was by far his favorite seva. He fondly remembers waking The Deities every morning before work and then putting Them to rest in the evenings. Sunday was the most special day. He would roam around New Vrindaban to gather flowers, branches and even moss to decorate the altar so that it would appear just like the forests of Vrindavan. Each Sunday he would strive to make the decorations more and more opulent.

Anything specific you’d like mentioned about your family?

Syama Kunda was happy that 8 of his children were born in New Vrindaban Dham. His daughter Vishakha was the first girl born here. He was also very grateful that his son, Kiba Jaya, had the opportunity to personally stand near Srila Prabhupada and receive a cookie from his hand. Kiba jaya also got to travel to India. Syama Kunda feels very grateful that his family had the opportunity to participate in Krishna Conscious village life in the early days.

Anything in particular you’d like us to highlight not covered above?

Although Syama Kunda began his devotional life in New Vrindaban, after leaving he spent a lot of time in the Los Angeles temple which became his 2nd home. The more he gazed upon Rukmini on the altar (Rukmini-Dwarkadish), the more She captured his heart. She made Syama Kunda cry for Krsna. So the highlight for him was working at the LA temple while begging for the mercy of Sri Sri Rukiimini-Dwarkadish.

Any advice to newer and future residents?

In the beginning of New Vrindaban, reading Srila Prabhupada’s books was put on the back burner in order to do the needful for the development of this Holy Dham. Syama Kunda felt there was a lot of misunderstanding of Prabhupada’s teachings but that has since been rectified by an increase in focus on his instructions. Syama Kunda encourages everyone to take 20 to 30 minutes every day to read Prabhupada’s books. This keeps us in a personal relationship with him.


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