ECO-Vrindaban Logo New Vrindaban

By Madhava Smullen

“Krishna by His practical example taught us to give all protection to the cows and that should be the main business of New Vrindaban,” Srila Prabhupada wrote to his disciple Hayagriva Das in 1968, leaving little doubt as to the community’s focus.

Since then, New Vrindaban has always protected cows. But this year, the Eco-Vrindaban organization – which looks after 640 acres of rolling green forests and pastures – has renewed its focus, overseeing multiple improvements in the quality of cow care.

To begin with, a higher budget and a larger number of experienced devotee staff have been assigned to the community’s 48 cows, calves and oxen. The team, consisting of longtime program overseer Ranaka, inspirational guide Varshana Swami, ox teamster Daivata, caretakers Radhanath and Ray, and milkers Anandavidya, Lalita Gopi, and Radhapriya meet every month.

One major step they’ve made this year has been to increase medical care, proven by the case of milking cow Shankari, who fell and broke her leg on the pasture in March.

In the world of commercial dairy farming, this would mean an instant death sentence. Shankari’s devotee caretakers, however, spent $10,000 to give her the best veterinary care available at the OSU veterinary hospital in Columbus, Ohio. There, she received an X-ray, surgery to fix the break, and a high-quality cast. Now, she’s walking again, healing in her own private pasture.

New Vrindaban Cow Protection Shankari in her leg caste

Shankari in her leg cast.

In April, older cows Bahula and Kalindi developed eye cancer and were brought to OSU for an operation to remove the infected eyes. Radhanath then washed their wounds daily and applied localized penicillin when Kalindi developed an infection. Since then, both cows have healed.

Besides immediate medical needs, ECO-V’s cow caretakers add other personal touches too. Head milker Anandavidya is doing a trial run on the product Fly Predator to rid the cows of bothersome flies. “The company sends you the larvae of a particular species of fly, which eats the larvae of the pest flies,” he says.

Meanwhile his wife Lalita Gopi has spent a lot of time cutting back the thorny wild rose bushes in the field next to the milking barn so that the cows don’t hurt themselves.

The milking cows can also look forward to a clean and cosy winter this year. Radhanath and carpenter Vyasasana Das have extended the feeding aisle in the milking barn to accommodate twice the number of cows, and created an enclosed “loafing area” where they can lie down in a clean, comfortable, hay-covered space.

New Vrindaban Cow Protection Goshalla 2014

New Extension on the Goshalla

There are also plans to create a new drainage system for the “hospital pasture” next to the milking barn where pregnant cows and calves are kept. This will prevent the cows from getting hoof rot, which can be extremely painful and is caused by too much time in mud.

The devotees caring for the cows also need to be cared for, and there are hopes to insulate the milking barn by this winter to keep the milkers warm.

“I was there last winter, and it’s brutal!” says part-time milker Radhapriya. “By the time you’ve finished milking it’s like you don’t have feet anymore. No matter how many socks or how many layers of clothes you wear, you just can’t stay warm!”

New Vrindaban Cow Protection Calf 2014

A calf milking from his mother.

That hasn’t stopped the milkers from working hard. Anandavidya and Lalita Gopi are now milking nine cows – twice as many as last year – in the mornings and evenings. That means double the milk too, with an average of thirty gallons every day. In the afternoons, Anandavidya makes butter, yoghurt and panir from the milk, providing most of the dairy for the Deities, devotees and the community Govinda’s Restaurant during offpeak times.

The focus on cow protection at New Vrindaban has encouraged other devotees and guests to help with the cows too. Milking times are advertised as part of the temple schedule, so devotees occasionally come to milk, wash, feed or brush a cow. And South Indian brahmana Venkat Chalapati brings a group of guests nearly every morning for Go-puja and a chance to milk a cow.

“Lalita Gopi says that everyone should milk a cow at least once in their life,” Radhapriya enthuses. “And she’s right. When you spend time with cows, it automatically transports you into a relaxing, sattvic environment. You can go into the barn all stressed out, and being with the cows just makes it better. It slows you down – cows are not going to rush for anything!”

To add extra incentive for guests to visit, devotees have made the milking barn more attractive by painting Rangoli designs in the interior, and adding landscaping, freshly painted fences and a swing bench flanked by large, ornate flower pots to the exterior.

Of course, it’s not just the cows that are being cared for. Exciting developments are also afoot for oxen. Vyasasana Das is currently rebuilding an old barn in the Bahulaban area where the animals will be kept and trained separately from the main herd. The first floor will include spacious stalls for each ox and a tack room for equipment, while the second floor will be a hay loft. Outside there’ll be a training yard and holding area, with grazing pastures beyond.

Six bull calves between the ages of one month and one year – Pundarikaksha, Priya Darshan, Amani, Harichand, Nandi and Ishan – are already residing in Bahulaban and beginning their training to be oxen. Varshana Swami and Daivata Das, who worked with oxen in New Vrindaban’s early days, are leading the program.

New Vrindaban ISKCON Cow Protection Daivata ox team.

Daivata das and ox his team.

The oxen are currently walking with a training yoke so that they get used to working together in pairs and learning commands. After that, they’ll start pulling a rope, then a chain and then a sled carrying firewood. Next, they’ll train for all the stages of breaking up soil until it’s fine enough to plant in – first plowing, then discing, and lastly harrowing.

Finally, when they’re two years old, the oxen will be ready to tackle the real precision work — pulling a cultivator between rows of crops. Varshana Swami hopes that they’ll make their first appearance at the community’s Garden of Seven Gates by next summer, and will be in serious production mode the summer after that.

Oxen, Varshana Swami feels, symbolize the kind of spiritual community Srila Prabhupada envisioned in New Vrindaban. “When you hitch two oxen together, the team dynamic kicks into play,” he says. “And Krishna is attracted where there’s teamwork, where there’s synergy, where there’s harmony, where everybody’s working together.”

“Which is,” he concludes, “What we here at New Vrindaban call the Brijbasi Spirit.”

Sunflowers grown in New Vrindaban gardens 2014

Sunflowers grown in New Vrindaban’s gardens, 2014

“So these duties are there in New Vrindaban, and we shall have to live there self independently, simply by raising cows, grains, fruits, and flowers.” – Srila Prabhupada, January 1969.

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



A recent article in the Op-Ed of the Dec 8 New York Times entitled  "Know Thy Self - Really"  by Quassim Cassam, philosophy professor  at the University of Warwick, UK., asks “How do you know you believe you are wearing socks?” and explores the conundrum of many philosophy professors that their work is of no relevance to the human condition.   He continues by stating  that “Knowledge of such beliefs is seen as a form of self-knowledge.”

The noble professor tries to elevate the discussion in saying, “What is missing from this picture is any real sense of the human importance of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge matters to us as human beings, and the self-knowledge which matters to us as human beings is substantial rather than trivial self-knowledge. We assume that on the whole our lives go better with substantial self-knowledge than without it, and what is puzzling is how hard it can be to know ourselves in this sense.”

Professor Cassam, however,  sees the question about the socks as trivial self knowledge rather than substantial self knowledge. But real self knowledge can never be trivial. It’s always substantial, because once we understand ‘self’ we can understand our relationship to every thing around us. It’s all about posing the right questions. The Bhagavad Gita explains that we can’t come to self knowledge if we mistakenly think that our mind or our body is the self. In the Gita, Arjuna asks, “What happens to a philosopher who becomes confused or gives up the path of self knowledge. It seems that such a philosopher will achieve neither spiritual nor material success.” Krishna responds, “A philosopher who asks beneficial questions and is engaged in beneficial activities will not meet with failure, for  one who does good is never overcome by evil.” 

At this point Krishna helps us to distinguish between matter and spirit. He explains that we need full knowledge, both physical and metaphysical to draw proper conclusions. And that which is comprised of earth, water, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego make up the lower, material energies.  And the living being, comprised of life force, is part of the superior, spiritual energies. This distinction is a vital step toward self knowledge. We first have to know who the self is and know what the self is not, otherwise all discussions on the topic will be flawed. If I could I  would like to assure the professor that  self knowledge is not as hard to obtain as one might suspect.

“One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the moods of nature is sure to attain liberation.  He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.” Bhagavad Gita 13:24

For info on my award-winning book visit  www.Mahabharata-Project.com  

Sunday morning, Dec. 7, was the last day of the Deity Worship Seminars here in New Vrindaban.  This was the second Deity Worship Seminar taught by His Grace Jayananda prabhu in New Vrindaban.  Jayananda explained, “We did a very short seminar last year, but we wanted to increase the depth of this seminar.  So this weekend we offered a full 20 hours of study.  It was very detailed but it is going well.”    ISKCON Deity Worship Minister for North America Jayananda  is a disciple of Bhakti-Tirtha Swami, and was trained in Deity Worship at the Mayapur Academy in West Bengal.

The 26 participants,  from such places as D.C. and Potomac, MD, and including New Vrindaban’s pujaris, learned about how the Lord is present in His deity form, as well as the goal and proper mood of deity worship, dressing, mantras, mudras and festival abhisheks.

Jayananda prabhu, carefully trained in all aspects of Deity worship, leading the seminar in NV.

Jayananda prabhu, carefully trained in all aspects of Deity worship, leading the seminar in NV.

One  pujari gentleman from the Washington, D.C. area said, “These workshops are reinforcing many things I’ve already learned in deity worship, plus I’m learning so many new things. Plus, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit New Vrindaban! It’s beautiful here!”

One pujari woman told us, “Jayananda prabhu is very approachable, and easy to understand. He makes these seminars very clear to everyone. I appreciate that. We can even ask him about any Deity issues we have, and he seems happy to help.”

Srila Prabhupada’s vision for New Vrindaban included spiritual education, focused on loving Krsna, as one of the 5 main goals for this community.   The association of the devotees, focused around important  Krsna conscious themes, such as proper deity worship, is the life of a devotee.  New Vrindaban is looking forward to hosting many more such programs in the future.

An attentive crowd listens carefully.

An attentive crowd listens carefully.

Over 25 devotees attended.

Over 25 devotees attended.

 

New Vrindaban Fall Board Meetings 2014:

Community Parikrama Showcases Exciting Developments

 By Madhava Smullen

 On November 2nd, after spending the previous day hearing presentations on New Vrindaban’s many departments, board and community members wrapped up this fall’s meetings by seeing some of the latest developments for themselves in an enlivening community parikrama.

At 10:00am, around twenty-five people stepped out into a crisp but brilliantly blue and sunny morning and made their way first to the old barn at Bahulaban, which had fallen into a severely dilapidated condition over thirty years but is now being rebuilt as a new ox training center.

New Vrindaban Bahulaban Ox Barn Renovation 2014

Renovation Progress on old cow barn> new ox barn

Renovation project manager Vyasasana Das spoke about his work on the barn, which has been given a brand new wood frame over its original core structure. He indicated the spaces on the first floor where there will be hay storage and corrals for oxen, and on the second floor where there will be living quarters for people working with the ox program.

Daivata Das, who worked with oxen when Prabhupada was physically present and is back to carry out the same service, showed everyone the training area at the back of the barn, and spoke about how he hopes to have the young oxen pulling a cart next year. He was clearly brimming with enthusiasm at getting to serve the community in this way again.

New Vrindaban Ox Team Daivata das.

New Ox Team and their trainer, Daivata das.

Meanwhile New Vrindaban pioneers Madhava Gosh and Advaita Das told stories about how devotees lived in the barn with their families in the early days, and how Advaita’s son was born there.

Madhava Gosh and his wife Vidya, who received an appreciation plaque to take home the previous day, were then presented with another public plaque which will remain permanently affixed to the new ox barn. “In recognition of more than four decades of service rendered to the cows and gardens of New Vrindaban by Madhava Gosh Dasa and Vidya Dasi,” it reads, “The Board of Directors of Eco-Vrindaban hereby renames this building the Madhava Gosh-alla.”

After everyone had a good chuckle at its pun-tastic new name, the ox program’s spiritual advisor Varshana Swami reminded them that the barn also had great spiritual significance. “It’s the last place built by devotees that Srila Prabhupada visited in Bahulaban,” he said. “And now, it’s getting a second life.”

Next, the tour moved on to the hilltop Radha Gopinath Mandir. Still under construction, it’s set to be a small replica of the original temple in Vrindavan, India. Varshana Swami, who is overseeing the project, pointed out the Radha Gopinath Deities residing in an elegant gazebo nearby, and said that They would move into Their temple once it is completed.

New Vrindaban Govardhan Hill Radha Kunda ISKCON

Tour of Govardhan Hill area

He then explained the history of the project, outlining Srila Prabhupada’s instructions to build not only seven replicas of Vrindavan’s seven main temples, but also replicas of its sacred lakes. He showed the group two of these replica lakes, Radha Kunda and Lalita Kunda, and spoke about the pastimes Krishna performed at them, while community president Jaya Krishna Das cheerfully sprinkled everyone with their sacred waters.

The tour also inspected a computer-generated image of the Radha-Gopinath Mandir, with Raghunath Das Goswami’s bhajan kutir and Radha-Kunda next to it.

“Please offer your blessings and prayers that Srila Prabhupada’s vision will unfold more and more,” Varshana Swami requested the assembled devotees.

From Radha-Gopinath Mandir, the parikrama went on to the Garden of Seven Gates. Garden manager Kacey Orr showed everyone the new greenhouse for in-ground planting, where greens will continue to be harvested until February and will last the Temple through much of winter.

New Vrindaban ISKCON Garden of 7 Gates

Inside the high tunnel at the Garden of 7 Gates

She also took the tour through the recently renovated flower greenhouse, which was dormant but will see an astonishing twenty to thirty thousand flowers grown there throughout the 2015 growing season.

Walking through the open fields in the Garden of Seven Gates, Kacey talked about the crops grown there, including tomatoes, peppers, Chinese cabbage, green beans, pumpkins, watermelon, squash, ten-foot-high sunflowers, and marigolds, which were still growing in a golden carpet across the ground.

“Every time we pick, there are fifty gallons of marigolds,” Kacey said, before pointing out the area where a brand new rose garden, exclusively for the Deities, will be grown next year.

Kacey’s last stop was the smaller Teaching Garden, a cosy haven for herbs and flowers encircled by a newly-built honey-colored fence and gates. A regular site for guest tours, its centerpiece is an attractive wooden pergola where devotees can chant or make garlands, and guests can relax and soak up the peaceful environment.

“Next spring we will be taking it up to show-level, and putting signs in every bed so that guests know what they’re looking at,” said Kacey.

Finally, the tour visited the community’s milking barn where nine Brown Swiss cows are milked, passing through the new swing and large decorative flower planters at the entrance. Inside, cowherds Ananda Vidya and his wife Lalita Gopi pointed out the new extension to the feeding aisle, and the new enclosed loafing area for the cows to relax in a dry, hay-covered space.

New Vrindaban Cow Protection Oxen ISKCON 2014

Two young bulls playing together

The weekend ended with a beautiful pushpanjali ceremony honoring Vaishnava acharya Gaura Kishora Das Babaji on his disappearance day. Afterwards, as they tucked into an Ekadasi Sunday Feast, all the devotees excitedly discussed everything they had seen and heard, inspired to continue their service with renewed energy and support New Vrindaban in its ongoing growth.

New Vrindaban Oxen 1975

Devotees working oxen in New Vrindaban, 1975.

“You should also use the bulls by engaging them in tilling the ground. People may call this the primitive way but it is very practical for engaging the bulls – have them work in cart loading, transporting, etc.” – Srila Prabhupada, January 1974.

Click here to read the rest of the letter at the Brijabasi Spirit website.

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