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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #14

For the week of September 22nd-28th, 2008

Watch your step...oops! Yes, that's fresh tomato juice in between your toes. It's all part of a week's work at the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban Dham.

What we got done

-This week's Farm Circle was a ol-fashioned hoot of a time, as Devananda Pandit and a loyal crew assembled at the Radha-Kunda home of HH Varsana Swami to make some fresh apple cider. While the quantity of the cider was small, the quality was immense enough to make those store-bought cartons of cider hide their head in shame. Here's some pics...

Govind likes...


HH Varsana Swami spoke on how the simple life that Prabhupada prescribed is very conducive to the most important thing in our lives, which is developing our relationship with Krsna. Without the teeming distractions of the life of urban decay, we can actually cultivate the art of always thinking of Krsna, and never forgetting Him.

-The season-concluding harvest continued up top at the Garden of Seven Gates, as we were able to finish off our crop of tomatoes and pull the remaining plants out of the ground. Where once they grew on vines to green and orange and red results now stands only the dirt and the occasional scampering mouse. After finishing the big job, Chris once again remarked that he felt "like a manly man."

We have a large stock of green and red tomatoes of varying varieties and sizes in the cooler. Please share in our harvest for you and your family's needs! See Tapah or Chris if you would like some tomatoes.

Also being pulled up and out this week were more and more green beans, okra, and bitter melon. We also continue to harvest our cayenne, jalapeno, and paprika peppers. Tapah is currently patiently and lovingly dehydrating the paprikas for use in the cool seasons ahead.

Looking ahead to next year, we've begun to have manure fertilizer laid down on our beds up top, with the loving donation of such revitalizing poop coming from our dear mother holy heifers in the RVC Goshalla. Thanks Mom!

Poop power

-Here's some news on our next meeting concerning community options on the natural gas drilling issue: There will be an open meeting for all devotees Tuesday evening, September 30 to share realizations about the drilling for gas lease options available for devotee private land owners and New Vrndavana corporations.

The meeting will be held in the bottom of the guest lodge.

The schedule is 6:15 pm kirtan, 6:30 pm open forum, 8:30 pm pizza and nectar drink prasadam.

Please come and share information, realizations and association! See you there!

What we realized
-As Phani prabhu was told this week, what it really boils down to is that we're between ice ages, so it's best to just get the heck off this planet ASAP (in a respectable, devotional way of course).

In more serious terms, we can debate and cajole and argue about the science of global warming, its causes and effects, its political and emotional and social costs, etc etc. If you want to become deeply absorbed in this debate, there's a place called the Internet which is perfect for you. While we should be educated in this regard, we must not lose sight of our common sense.

Our common sense is that as, devotees of Krsna, ahimsa stands as one of the key principles. Naturally, from there we should have a deep-rooted desire and ability to respect the Earth and its inhabitants, from our human neighbours down to the scurrying ant.

Al Gore's power-points may be entertaining and educational, but having a truly spiritual view of life means that it doesn't take much convincing to be environmentally responsible. Our common sense tells us not to exploit our fellow animal residents. Common sense tells us not that genetic altering of our foodstuffs, without due caution, is an unseemly enterprise. Common sense shows us the effects of industrialized pollution.

Disrespecting our Mother Earth is never pretty and never beneficial. We should live on the higher tip, practically as devotees, showing what it means to be connected to the dirt under our feet, and how to use that dirt in the most delicious and dynamic ways.

All the big bang boom of the industrial world is stifling the common sense of simplicity. Let us together bring back what was ours once and what we have now forgotten.

Please help us out! Your hands, heads, and hearts can help us restore Srila Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficency here at New Vrindaban Dham. We're out shining and even in the rain in the Teaching Garden across the street from the RVC Temple, or up the hill at the Garden of Seven Gates. See HG Tapahpunja Prabhu for all the details.

Click here for more info on the Small Farm Training Center.

Stay tuned for next week's update! Hari Haribol!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #13

For the week of September 15th-21st, 2008

The chill of the fall night soothes and refreshes the soul. Let us refresh your browser in the same way with this week's updates of the goings-on here at the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban Dham

What we got done

-Click here to read this week's report from our Farm Circle gathering, as we canned tomatoes at Yudhisthira's one-of-a-kind stone cabin. Here's some more pics of Yudhisthira's humble woods abode.

Yudhisthira cranks it

At next week's Farm Circle, we will be heading up to Radha-Kunda, in the association of HH Varsana Swami, to share wisdom and freshly pressed apple cider. Here are some of the pics of the cider press, rescued from Bahulaban and now being oiled, washed, and repaired for next Thursday night.

-The fall harvest continues to abound up top at the Garden of Seven Gates. We need help and hands to finish off our green bean patches, chard patches, and to pull some of our tomato plants out of the ground to prepare the way for next year's growing season. See Tapah or Chris if you would like to help, and they will be more than happy to share the seva.

-In what is becoming a project akin to building the Great Pyramids, we put into place a big, 400-lb log this weekend in our Workshop Extension, moving one step closer to being able to begin construction on the roof. The whole shebang included skinning the bark off the log, in which Chris remarked that it made him "feel like a manly man", and then hoisting the log using the combined brainpower, willpower, and musclepower of Tapah, Tom, and Jay Murari. Big thanks to the Glendale flea market for providing the large tripod that also did some of the actual lifting. Here's some pics of the death-defying ordeal.

-We were asked what was the position of Club 108 on the proposal to allow natural gas drilling on New Vrindaban owned land. Right now, like the rest of our community, we are cautious and trying to educate ourselves as to the benefits and side-effects. Above all, at the present moment, we would hope a final decision isn't rushed into without considering all the possible angles.

Here's some links to websites with information on the process and effects of such drilling:

And click here to read the notes from our community this past Monday, the 15th, on the drilling issue.

What we realized

As Yudhisthira put it, his place and his life is "back to basics". To most "civilized" people, ensconced in IPhones, Obamamania, and Vogue magazine, the basics seem primitive, alien, and a big fright. But Prabhupada said...

That is our mission: Cow protection and agriculture and if there is excess, trade. This is a no-profit scheme. For the agriculture we want to produce our own food and we want to keep cows for our own milk. The whole idea is that we are ISKCON, a community to be independent from outside help. This farm project is especially for the devotees to grow their own food. Cotton also, to make their own clothes. And keeping cows for milk and fatty products.
Our mission is to protect our devotees from unnecessary heavy work to save time for advancing in Krsna consciousness. This is our mission. So there is no question of profit, but if easily there are surplus products, then we can think of trading. Otherwise we have no such intention. We want a temple, a gosala and agriculture. A community project as in Europe and America. We are making similar attempts in India in several places.
(Letter to Yasomatinandana dasa, 28th November, 1976)

In creating a culture of care, we must support and take part in our rural projects in Srila Prabhupada's vision, if only to serve our fellow devotees by making their path back to Godhead easier. For devotees of this generation and generations going forwards, to create transcendental village atmospheres will give the sublime alternative of lifestyle choice as opposed to the utter entanglements of the ugra-karma world. It's our duty!

Please help us out! Your hands, heads, and hearts can help us restore Srila Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficency here at New Vrindaban Dham. We're out shining and even in the rain in the Teaching Garden across the street from the RVC Temple, or up the hill at the Garden of Seven Gates. See HG Tapahpunja Prabhu for all the details.

Click here for more info on the Small Farm Training Center.

Stay tuned for next week's update! Hari Haribol!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Inside the Farm Circle #6

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

We gathered in the chilled woodsy September air inside Yudhisthira's one-of-a-kind, "back to basics" stone cabin across the creek from the RVC Temple. His humble abode, carved, built, and assembled by hand (or in his words "built using no money...OK, maybe $25"), is truly a model of exactly what we're talking about.

Yudhisthira lives in communion with Krsna and Mother Nature, and he is a gracious host, a sincere and practiced devotee, a wondrous storyteller, and a true friend to Vaisnavas alike. Here's some pics of his abode...

Is that Prof or a tree, neither or both?

Devananda Pandit gave a informative talk on the art of tomato canning. You can click here to check out an article we did with Devananda a little while back all about this sublime, self-sufficient process of vegetable preservation. Be informed and can those tomatoes!

We'd like to thank Lotus, Micheal, and Grey for cooking a wonderful feats of rice, spinach and lentil dal, a corn, pepper, and tomato subji, and applesauce. All of it homemade and locally-grown. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks Lotus!

Next week, we're making homemade apple cider up at Radha-Kunda, the humble abode of HH Varsana Swami. It will be hands-on and heart-warming. Stay tuned here for all the details.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Simple Living, High Thinking #12

For the week of September 8th-14th, 2008

The season's are a changing, the groundhogs are fat and sleepy, and we're back with our weekly look into the world of the Small Farm Training Center here at New Vrindaban Dham. Come along!

What we got done
-The New Vrindaban Community was blessed with the presence last week of HH Bhakti-Raghava Maharaja, who is devoting his life to practically bring about the other side of Prabhupada's mission, varnasrama-dharma Click here for a article on his enlivening Farm Circle talk.

Our series of Farm Circles is drawing to a close, but not before the real excitement kicks in! This week we'll be hosted by HG Yudhisthira Prabhu at his palatial and humble forest home for a whole shebang on canning tomatoes, herbal medicines from the forest, kirtan, prasad, and maybe even some good' ol "End Times" preaching magic. We leave with shuttle service from the Teaching Garden at 6pm on Thursday, the 18th. See Tom, Chris, or Tulasi for all the details.

Whereever the Farm Circle is, there's a man, a devotee man, named Devananda Pandit, with a guitar and a song to warm your soul

-Our varieties of tomato crops have been fully harvested up top at the Garden of Seven Gates, thanks to the help of a number of our community devotees, and we are in the process of freezing them and preserving them for winter stock as we did our green bean crop from earlier in the summer.

Next up are figuring out what to do with our oat crop, as we begin to slowly transfer over to the growing of grain as a key aspect of providing a reliable supply of foodstuffs of community. We'll have an update next week on our oat collection.

-Here's a clarion call to one and all for your hands, hearts, and assistance. As we begin to wrap up this growing season and harvest, we have to prepare the grounds and beds of both the Teaching Garden and the Garden of Seven Gates. We need your help in doing this, so that we're not out in the December cold trying to make sure the ground is ready for next year's beet crops and all.

Your service to us is our livelihood and the warmth of our green heart. Ask Tapah or Chris what you can do to help us insure that the 2009 year is abundant with local, organic magic for one and all.

-Those with intrepid eyes have noticed that our Workshop Extension, after countless hours of tire-smashing and gravel-handling, is now starting to rise from the ground. Our local wood supply is now coming up and being drilled and hammered together to form the foundation for the full construction of the buildling, and work on the roof will begin as quickly as you can eat a fresh laddu. Tom, despite the rickety ladders, with help from Madhupati Prabhu, is hard at work daily making the dream come true.

Here's some pics of the progress, and we'll have a full report next week about the construction's progress over the next few weeks and months.

-As well, we need excited people power to help us in the 2009 season as well. Click here to check out our Small Farm Training Center brochure, with all the info you need to join us, and hey, do us a favor and spread our brochure around by e-mailing to it your favorite green thumbs around the world.

What we realized

Often it feels like we go in circles. We agree on the concept, right?...Prabhupada wanted rural, Krsna-Conscious centered living as a key aspect of his mission. And we see now in this gradually post-industrial 21-Century world that more and more people want to "get back to the land". So what a great opportunity we have here in New Vrindaban and in our other rural communities within ISKCON. Not only can we help people get their hands dirty, we can also get them back to Godhead at the same time. Goloka has some pretty first-class foliage, don't you think?

The vibe we've gotten is that it's time to start talking about it, which we've been doing for years, and just get down to it, depending on Krsna and hopefully our communities and larger institutions. Our Farm Circles next year should be entirely focused on the practical community-building aspects of all of our self-sufficient projects. We have to realize the urgent nature of our duty to Prabhupada and put aside our personal differences, politics, and profit margins.

Here in our holy hills, we can either take New Vrindaban further and further away from Prabhupada's vision or we can step forward into His Divine Grace's guidance and wisdom and heal the heart of our community. Krsna is in control, but he does leave the decision making up to us.

Please help us out! Your hands, heads, and hearts can help us restore Srila Prabhupada's vision of self-sufficency here at New Vrindaban Dham. We're out shining and even in the rain in the Teaching Garden across the street from the RVC Temple, or up the hill at the Garden of Seven Gates. See HG Tapahpunja Prabhu for all the details.

Click here for more info on the Small Farm Training Center.

Stay tuned for next week's update! Hari Haribol!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If you don't eat your meat, how can you have any pudding?..

High Chief Al Gore may not be saying it (correct us if we're wrong), but the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying it loud and hopefully proud.

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world's leading authority on global warming has told The Observer

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.

His comments are the most controversial advice yet provided by the panel on how individuals can help tackle global warning.

Pachauri, who was re-elected the panel's chairman for a second six-year term last week, said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems - including habitat destruction - associated with rearing cattle and other animals. It was relatively easy to change eating habits compared to changing means of transport, he said.

It's better than a Prius! It's the vegetarian lifestyle!

Click here to read more

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Inside the Farm Circle #5

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

This week's program was all kinds of special, as we were graced with the presence of our esteemed guest and keynote speaker HH Bhakti-Raghava Swami, who spoke about his vast experience and wisdom in helping to implement the other 50% of Srila Prabhupada's vision, varnasrama-dharma.

One of Maharaja's main points was that Prabhupada very clearly stressed the implementing of daivi-varnasrama, with self-sufficient rural communities as a key practical application, as one of the vital aspects of his mission.

Varnasrama is vast, complex topic. It boils down to simple living, but the path to simple living is very complicated, especially in the West.

We don't know all of the aspects, sacrifices, and joys of simple living, therefore we have the tendency to become unconvinced of its merits, especially in our ultra post-modern world. The true test, the true challenge, is to understand and apply what was in Prabhupada's mind regarding the task of varnasrama.

Maharaja is trying, with body, mind, and soul, to serve Prabhupada with his utmost sincerity and ability in this task. He has helped establish a rural community in Indonesia, which began as a hostel program with university students in Sumatra. Land was bought and developed to expand and preserve the community.

Standing on 150 acres, there are now 27 families living there, and its complete with asramas for unmarried men and women, a town hall, a guest house, and all the time-tested amenities, such as fresh wells for each family. And of course, no electricity.

But who would want to live in such a primitive way? If we have this limiting attitude, then we miss the real abundance and wealth that Mother Bhumi has to offer. When we are in tune, we understand in gross and subtle ways what Bhumi has to offer.

The devotees in Indonesia and also living in similar communities in India that Maharaja has visited, such as New Gokula Dham in Karnataka, are bringing it all back home with traditional village technology, such as weaving their own cloth, using ox power, and creating their own herbal medicines.

Maharaja read about Prabhupada's Four Movements, which he mentioned in a letter to a Gandhi supporter in 1949 and also in his "Essay on Gita Nagari" from a 1956 version of BTG (which can be found in the Folio). The four pillars of Prabhupada's movement are 1. Sankirtana, the distribution of the Holy Name 2. Temple Worship 3. Spiritual Initiation, spiritual training 4. The Classless Society, or daivi-varnasrama, where everyone is a devotee.

The need to establish this pillar of the Classless Society is a visionary one, and the need is for visionary devotees. Prabhupada stressed numerous times that the natural, village way of life is the best way to come to this state of devotional society.

Simple living brings the highest spiritual opulence and also real material opulence (grains and cows), free of all-consuming greed and envy.

Maharaja has written a few books on the subject, such as "Make Vrndaban Villages" and "Varnasrama Education", and you can learn all about it at his website

Monday, September 8, 2008

Inside the Farm Circle #4

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Bhakta-Tom, our fearless garden assistant, stonemason, and construction whiz, held an enlightening talk on alternative building design and how it is manifesting in our own community in the Workshop Extension in the Teaching Garden.

What are the keys and benefits of alternative housing designs, like the earthship and yurt? One who is so inclined can create a stable, eco-friendly design that acts as shelter for you and yours, for your animal population, and for other buildings like graineries and tool sheds.

Raising your own building from the grown up in a socially and envirnomentally responsible way is a first-class community builder.

The ethical responibilities to the environment include using lumber, stone, and clay from local sources, and in this similar vein, recycling and salvaging materials like metal and tires, like we are doing for the foundation for the Workshop Extension.

The wood we are using for the construction and the stone we are using for the Workshop floor also are coming from local sources in our community and surrounding small towns and villages.

The approach is simple: Take only what is needed to utilize. It's a K.I.S.S approach. Keep It Sweet and Simple.

Some practical examples of alternative housing include log-stacked homes, which traditionally use mixtures of dried moss and clay, wood ashes, lime, sand and chopped straw.

Here of course we are using a modified earthship design for the foundation of our Workshop, as mentioned above. Tires are a great renewable resource, and anyone of your friendly local tire stores are like a modern quarry, with plenty of free tires.

To fill the tires, 2.5 to 3 loads of dirt are needed to fill it, to a consistency of 300 lbs. It takes a lot of shoveling and smashing, but according to Bhakta-Chris, no service for the Lord is more blissful.

Tom is a goldmine of hands-on wisdom. Give em a hand of your own as he continues with the construction of our Workshop Extension in the Teaching Garden.