New Vrindaban Prabhupada Vrindaban Nath Radha 1976

Srila Prabhupada visiting Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath at the original New Vrindaban farmhouse, June 28th 1976.

“To erect for the members and for society at large a holy place of transcendental pastimes dedicated to the personality of Krishna.” Seven Purposes of ISKCON – Srila Prabhupada, 1966

Click here to read the other purposes at the website.

About a mile down the road from me, at the New Vrindaban Dairy, I get a half gallon of whole milk fresh from the cows. Here’s a pic of Ananda Vidya, the cowherd guy. He and/or his wife milk seven cows daily like clockwork, at 7:30 in the morning and 6 in the evening. The cows produce close to 25 gallons a day. Usually they give milk for 2 or 3 years. One cow gave milk for over 5 years. This is because they feel calm, happy and protected. One thing about milk - for kids its great, but as you get older it's better to cut back. If you have problems getting to sleep, best to have a piping hot cup in the evening (with a little honey) before retiring - this creates a sound and restful sleep.

My award winning book at
New Vrindaban Sankara Dasi 20th Anniversary Memorial Bench 2005

A flower offering in remembrance of Sankara devi dasi.

By Madhava Smullen

Friends and family are remembering Srimati Sankara devi dasi — known for her deep love of her children and quiet dedication to Krishna’s service — as the 30th anniversary of her passing approaches on January 25th, 2015. On that day, the Sunday Feast program at ISKCON New Vrindaban will be held in her honor.

Born Sylvia S. Walker on January 5th, 1946, Sankara dasi was raised in Michigan. She first met ISKCON devotees in San Francisco in 1969, two years after the first ever Rathayatra there.

Returning to Michigan, she lived near the Detroit temple with her young family and visited often. In the early 1970s, she and her husband regularly invited devotees to hold weekend festivals at their farm near Ann Arbor.

In 1978, tragedy struck. Sankara was diagnosed with acute hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES), an extremely rare form of leukemia. She wanted to use whatever time she had left delving deep into her Krishna consciousness. So she moved into the Detroit temple full-time.

“When I first met Sankara and her children, in Detroit, she was a happy introspective person who held an extraordinary ability to see God everywhere,” recalls her friend Mrigaksi Dasi.

In 1980, when her eldest children had grown too old for the small devotee school in Detroit, Sankara moved to ISKCON’s New Vrindaban farm community near Wheeling, West Virginia, which she felt would be the best place for them.

Her own children weren’t the only ones Sankara cared for. From 1980 to 1983, she watched many young kids at the New Vrindaban nursery. From 1983 on, she taught kindergarten and first grade at the community’s Nandagram School to children from all around North America. Many of her former students remember her fondly as patient, sweet and caring.

Sankara also sewed for New Vrindaban’s presiding Deities Sri Sri Radha-Vrindaban Chandra and made their garlands daily, which was her favorite service.

“Sankara was easy to do service with; having an insightful and creative nature,” says Rupa Dasi, who worked with her on a sewing project. “She had a keen sense of focus for the project and really put all her heart into the service. She also was always very concerned for the welfare of her children. And this was a frequent topic of her talks. She knew her time was limited, and she was determined to use it to the very best advantage she possibly could on their behalf.”

During this time, Sankara had to go for heart surgery more than once due to the stresses her chronic condition placed on her heart. She also suffered from asthma. Yet Vidya Dasi, who lived and worked with her – both in the nursery and in garland-making – says that no matter how sick she got, Sankara always did her service with devotion and dedication.

“I don’t think we understood at the time how her failing health must have made her feel,” says Vidya. “And I’m thinking back, ‘How did she not complain, how did she keep up with us?’”

Even on the morning when Sankara went to the hospital for the last time, devotees remember her making sure her daily garland-making service would be covered and that her children would be looked after. It was this mood that encapsulated her life.

At the Intensive Care Unit, when doctors declared they couldn’t do anything more and invited her devotee friends in, Sankara’s vitals stabilized as she heard them chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. It was in this setting, surrounded by a number of her godsisters, that she finally left this world on January 25th, 1985.

Sankara Dasi is survived by her five children, Chaitanya Mangala, Makara, Veena, Sesa and Bhima; her five grandchildren, Kalindi, Airavata, Lauren, Hayden and Daniel; and her former husband, Danakeli Das.

Her family had her remains cremated, and scattered her ashes among the flower beds at Prabhupada’s Palace Rose Garden, one of her most cherished places. In 2005, on the 20th anniversary of her passing, they dedicated a Nama Samadhi in the form of a granite memorial bench in her honor at New Vrindaban.

The bench is situated along the scenic walkway that winds around the Kusum Sarovara Lake at the lotus feet of Gaura Nitai and in the shadow of Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold. It serves as a place for people to relax and appreciate their surroundings as they follow a parikrama path through the holy dham.

New Vrindaban Gaura Nitai Sankara dasi memorial bench 2005

Sankara dasi’s memorial bench, situated at the Lotus Feet of big Gaura Nitai (bottom left corner).

Etched into the bench are the words: “In loving memory: Sylvia S. Walker – Sankara devi dasi. January 5th, 1946 – January 25th, 1985” and a quote from Sankara herself – “I am surrounded by the radiance, glory and richness of the Creator. In the final analysis, all things come from the same Source. We are all related; even the rocks are our brothers.”

“My mother was a sensitive, thoughtful and highly spiritual person who quietly and determinedly performed her services despite whatever obstacles were placed in her path,” says her eldest son, Chaitanya Mangala, who is a board member for both ISKCON New Vrindaban and ECO-Vrindaban. “To me, that’s a sign of a genuine devotee.”

“Moreover,” he continues, “She cared deeply for her children and was totally convinced that the fledgling Hare Krishna Society, and more specifically New Vrindaban, was the best place to raise us. Despite the hardships and shortcomings, I do appreciate the sincere attempts made by my mother and others of her pioneer generation. And, as we honor the 30th anniversary of her passing, I humbly dedicate my community building efforts in her memory.”

New Vrindaban Sankara dasi family memorial bench installation 2005

Members of Sankara dasi’s family with her memorial bench.


All the cows went in the barn at the end of November. In later December we noticed Krishna getting thin. This was usual for him for the past three years and we didn't worry. He would get thin in winter but have no problem moving around and eating. Then he would fatten up in the spring when he and all the other cows were let out on pasture. His spring, summer and fall video updates showed him well and happy.He seemed to be following the same pattern this year.

This evening Balabhadra found him lying down in the barn. He said he is real weak and doesn't seem able to get up. He is surrounded by his friends and we have the Hare Krishna mantra chanted by Srila Prabhupada playing in the barn 24/7. Balabhadra and Lakshmi put a bunch of hay under him to make him comfortable.

We had an ox quite a few years back who had similar problems and the vet said he had Johnes disease for which there is no cure even if recognized in the early stages. It is a digestive disease. For that particular ox we tried a bunch of remedies anyway to no avail.

If you could please pray for Krishna that he receive the mercy of Lord Krishna.


Hare Krsna!

Balabhadra went to check this morning on Krishna and found him in the same position. He sprinkled Govardhana dust and Radha Kund water on his head, put Tulasi leaves in his mouth and put a Lord Nrsringhadev kavitra on his horns. The sound of Hare Krsna bhajans could be heard in the barn from a CD player which we have playing 24/7. An hour later Balabhadra called me from the barn to tell me Krishna had passed away. He will be buried on the farm today.

Krishna's passing is unexpected and therefore difficult to accept. He was ten years old and in human years he would be 50 years old. Some of the cows were nudging him and sniffing him as if expecting him to get up. Narayana (a young Milking Shorthorn) was trying to lift him by his horns to get him moving. Balabhadra said that Krishna came over to him three days ago, the day before he went down, to talk to him while he was filling the feed aisle with hay. Krishna was quite chipper and his usual friendly, charming self. He went down yesterday evening and left us this morning, a very quick departure which greatly reduced his physical suffering.

Krishna and his friend Balaram were found in a petting zoo by some devotees who were told they were about to be shipped to the slaughterhouse because they had become too big for the petting zoo. They were 3 months old. The devotees called us and asked us to take them and they have been with us ever since. Balaram is quite healthy and I am sure will be missing Krishna.

Krishna will be remembered for his handsome appearance and his charming personality. He was always friendly to guests and patient with them in his mild mannered way. He was especially popular with the female guests. I always looked forward to visiting with him as he was always so relaxed and friendly. His association had a calming, soothing affect.

We will all miss Krishna greatly. Please pray for his journey to greener pastures.

Krishna (on the right) and Balaram setting foot on ISCOWP ground
for the very first time in 2004.

Krishna (on the left) skinny and with large cuts.  Balaram on the right. 
We were surprised at their condition when they arrived.
Krishna fattening up during the summer.
Amicable Krishna.

Balaram and Krishna (sitting down).
      Krishna (with Balabhadra) and Balaram (with Lakshmi)received           
      basic training by voice commands early in their lives.

Krishna and his friends during the fall of 2014.

New Vrindaban ISKCON Horse Cart Simple Living

A horse driven cart preparing hay in New Vrindaban – 1974.

“It may be an ideal village where the residents will have plain living and high thinking.” – Srila Prabhupada, June 1968

Click here to read the rest of the letter at the Vanipedia website.

Brief Memorial Service in Honor of the 30thAnniversary of the passing of Her Grace Sankara dasi

 Sankara dasi-January 5th, 1946 - January 25th, 1985

Sankara dasi-January 5th, 1946 – January 25th, 1985

When:                 Sunday Jan. 25, 2015

Time:                   1:30 PM, Before the Sunday Feast

Where:               RVC Temple Room

If you had the honor of knowing this very sweet Brijabasi, Sankara dasi, or just want to get inspired by hearing a bit about her, please attend this short talk in her memory.

Memorial bench at the feet of Gaur Nitai statues

Memorial bench at the feet of Gaur Nitai statues (bottom left corner)

Close-up of memorial bench dedicated by her five children.

Close-up of memorial bench dedicated in 2005 by her five children.

New Vrindaban Sankara Dasi Memorial

Our final week’s challenge (at least for a now): Who is this Brijabasi?

Bonus challenge: What’s the occasion connected with this photo?

What to do: Post your guesses on the “who, what, when, where & why” in the comment section at the New Vrindaban Facebook page.

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