Acquiring the Land
In 1969/70 Srila Prabhupada attempted to purchase land in Mayapur, but there were some difficulties.
Tamal Krsna Maharaja relates one incident: “Prabhupada was searching for land in Mayapur. We had tried to go to look for land when we first came to Calcutta, but we couldn’t; the flood waters stopped us from crossing the Ganges to go. So Prabhupada said, “Maybe Lord Caitanya doesn’t want me to establish a temple in Mayapur.”
Eventually there was some success; by 1971 he had acquired 5 acres. In a letter to Bhavananda in January 1972 he wrote: “I am very anxious for Lord Caitanya’s Appearance Day to be celebrated by all of our devotees in Mayapur in February. There is no reason why the government will not let 20 or 25 of our men come there for two weeks. We have got our own land and we must celebrate this occasion as an important part of our religious beliefs.” There had been a war between India and Pakistan over Bangladesh and the government was restricting the area to foreigners. The war was short lived however and devotees were able to occupy the land.
Establish Education to Glorify Lord Gauranga
The movement around the world was growing to such a degree that Srila Prabhupada began to plan for the long term future. He knew the value of a Krsna Conscious upbringing and began to open schools for the devotee’s children.
In April 1972 he wrote to Bhavananda: “…my special interest is in Mayapur, that we shall make it especially to glorify Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the best manner of programs, constructing buildings, preaching, Sankirtana, like that. Now in Mayapur there are two much important programs, namely, first of all, a school must be startedin English medium. The children may work in the temple compound for gardening and cleansing, then they shall attend class… Actually the Bhaktivinode Institute was started for this purpose, but they have turned it into an ordinary school.”
Prabhupada was strongly against mundane education, in a letter to Jayatirtha he wrote: “The karmis are attached too much to their bodies, children and wives, who are like fallible fighting soldiers who must ultimately be destroyed. Although they are sufficiently experienced, they still cannot see this. Therefore our young men must be trained at the earliest age to not be attached to so many things like the home, family, friendship, society, and nation. To train the innocent boy to be a sense gratifier at the early age when the child is actually happy in any circumstance is the greatest violence.”
Don’t be Business Minded
Simultaneous to the school program, he began to institute self sufficiency.
On the 9th May 1973 in a letter to Jayapataka Swami and Bhavananda Swami he wrote: “So Mayapur inhabitants can be engaged in such a small manufacturing enterprise as well as farming to become self sufficient. Side by side increase our spiritual consciousness by attending to the temple routine work, Deity worship sankirtana, attending class. The idea is we must have the necessities of our life as far as possible independently. But we should not be business minded.Our main business is to develop our dormant Krsna Consciousness.”
In a discussion in Rome on May 28th 1974 he said: “I am purchasing land in Vrndavana and Mayapura to become self-sufficient. Whatever production you make, you be satisfied. Little vegetable, little grain and little milk. That is sufficient… This is the civilization, cheating, bluffing. That’s all. They don’t care for the citizens. And as soon as there is some agitation, they declare war, so that they can be engaged, attention is diverted. This is going on.” “Now you have to reform them. That reformation is Krsna consciousness. So you have to make an example, what is actually human life… some of them, those who are intelligent, they will see, “Yes, here is life.” So you have to become an ideal society. You live locally, and be self-sufficient. They will see that it is possible to live locally without movement, and still highly cultured men, self-sufficient. That is required.”
Civilization Culture – Save Time for Krsna Consciousness
In a lecture at the World Health Organisation in Geneva in June 1974 he said: “So according to Bhagavad-gita, as we are preaching, we are also opening self-help centers. In New Vrindaban, West Virginia, we have already opened a very big community center. We are going to open in California also, and we have already opened in India also… We don’t require to go outside the land for our livelihood… Be self-sufficient. Save time for spiritual culture. That is human civilization… This is human life. That is our Vedic principle …varnasrama-dharma.Therefore we have introduced this Hare Krsna Movement. In the Kali-yuga, this yajna is possible… Just like we are making samples in West Virginia. They are self-sufficient. And the saved time is being utilized for Krsna consciousness. This is the remedy.”
On the 19th January 1975 Prabhupada wrote to Mahamsa that: “Now, we should have self-sufficiency. This means to make our own food grains grow and to weave our own cloth—like in Mayapur. If we have food grains, milk, and cloth, life becomes easy and we can save time for preaching and chanting. Not that everyone should do these activities of farming, but if one is less intelligent, or not intelligent enough to preach nicely, he can do. If one is capable, then he should preach. On the whole, our society should be divided into 4 divisions, but such divisions are not material. Just like Krishna belonged to the Vaisya community, but he is worshiped by the brahmanas. We shall utilize everything for Krishna’s service.”
It is sometimes said that Lord Caitanya rejected varnasrama. In Sri Bhaktyaloka however Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura states that Lord Caitanya did not reject varnasrama for social organization. He said: “The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labour if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.”
“From this one should not conclude that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has ordered us to discard varnasrama-dharma. If that had been the case, then He would not have instructed all living entities through His pastimes of completely following the orders of grhastha and sannyasa. As long as one has a material body the system of varnasrama-dharma must be followed, but it should remain under the full control and domination of bhakti. Varnasrama-dharma is like the foundation of one’s supreme occupational duty. When one’s supreme occupational duty is matured and one achieves his goal, then the process is gradually neglected. Again, it is also abandoned at the time of death.” Srila Prabhupada also confirms this in his discussions with Hari Sauri Prabhu in Mayapur in 1977.
Similarly we find: “Although He (Rsabhadeva) was a perfect personality, the Supreme Lord and controller of all, He nonetheless acted as if He were an ordinary conditioned soul. Therefore He strictly followed the principles of varnasrama-dharma and acted accordingly. In due course of time, the principles of varnasrama-dharma had become neglected; therefore through His personal characteristics and behaviour, He taught the ignorant public how to perform duties within the varnasrama-dharma. In this way He regulated the general populace in householder life, enabling them to develop religion and economic well-being and to attain reputations, sons and daughters, material pleasure and finally eternal life. By His instructions, He showed how people could remain householders and at the same time become perfect by following the principles of varnasrama-dharma.” SB 5.4.14
Demonstrate Civilization Based on Vedic Culture
On a morning walk in Nairobi on October 28th 1975 he said: “Grow food first of all to feed yourself sumptuously. You must get strength, and that is needed. But not for trade. The policy should be that you should be self-sufficient and save time for advancing in Krsna consciousness. That is wanted… What is this rascal civilization, whole day “Where is money? Where is money? Where is money? Where is money? Where is money?” Everyone. Busy means “Where is money? Where is money?” Just like the hog, he is busy: “What time…? Where is stool? Where is stool? Where is stool? Where is stool? Where is stool?” That is not civilization. If you remain always busy, “Where is stool?” like the hog, then what is your civilization? Whole day working, night, nightshift, dayshift, whole day, the same, like hog… Civilization means you know, you must know how to live very nicely. That is civilization.”
The Town Planner’s Brief
In December 1975 he had a fortuitous meeting with the planning officer for West Bengal, later he wrote to him: “I am very pleased to meet you the other day at the airport of Delhi. I think it was ordained by Lord Krishna because I need your help in the service of Lord Krishna. It will be a great satisfaction if you kindly visit our Mayapur establishment to see how things are going on there. We are developing a plan there to be self sufficient. Namely to produce our food grains, maintain cows for drinking milk, and weave cloth for garments We have plans for erecting a magnificent international city based on this Vedic culture. For this purpose we want a considerable tract of land, and I therefore wish that the Government may acquire some land for us so that we may develop our plan.
Engagement for All Devotees
In Vrindavan, October 1976, Mother Satyabhama had sent a short note to Srila Prabhupada along with a shawl, she wrote: “This shawl is made of the wool from our own sheep, spun and woven here at Gita-nagari. It is the first piece we have made. While I was working on it I would always think of you, of how I was supposedly making you a gift. But actually you are giving me the gift of engagement in devotional service.” Prabhupada was very happy to receive it, he said: “Thank her… Made with our wool. Hm, very nice. Very comfortable. Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna… Made with our wool.”
In November 1976 he wrote to Yasomatinandana: “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. 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.
Srila Prabhupada demonstrated a single-minded determination from the beginning. He ordered us to pursue and develop Mayapur as a place where we could show: “an example; what is actually human life”. To create an ideal self-sufficient society where “it is possible to live locally and still be highly cultured men.”
A Masterplan emerges…
Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita chapter 49 relates:
“Prabhupada explained to his disciples that although a sannyasi traditionally does not involve himself with money, the devotee’s desire is to unite Laksmi (the goddess of fortune, represented by wealth) with Narayana (God). He said there was truth to the common saying “No one listens to a poor man,” and were he to advertise A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami discoursing in an empty field in Mayapur, no one would come. Westerners especially should be able to hear about Krsna in a comfortable, attractive setting. Prabhupada planned, therefore, that visitors to ISKCON’s transcendental city be well accommodated. Gradually, the world would be deeply affected by the dynamic demonstration of the artistic, philosophical, and humanitarian aspects of Krsna consciousness.
Prabhupada asked Surabhi to draw a master plan for Mayapur City. Staying up all night, Surabhi made a preliminary architectural sketch, showing specific areas of the city for brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras. The sketch also showed temples, schools, streets, walkways, residential buildings, cottages, a stadium and an airport, as well as self-sufficiency features like windmills, irrigation systems, and agricultural fields.
Prabhupada was taking his massage when Surabhi brought him the drawing. But when Surabhi entered with the drawing of Mayapur, he became animated. Prabhupada liked the drawing and talked about it for an hour. Now Surabhi should make a formal drawing and approach professional architects and appropriate government agencies. The devotees coming to Mayapur should also see it. As fabulous and far-reaching as it was, the Mayapur City should now become a reality.”
By not being business minded, the devotees would be greatly benefitted in the development of their Krsna Consciousness. This is something that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta stressed. We find in the book Srila Bhaktisidhanta Vaibhava the following:
” …materialists may consider that laying roads, excavating ponds, sinking tube-wells, and arranging for a post office and electricity are laudable village-uplift projects, [Srila Sarasvati Thakura’s] only intention in making such arrangements was to glorify Sri Gaurasundara and promote his teachings. He wanted to attract the public to Mayapur and educate them that Mayapur was both the gateway to and non-different from Vrindavana.
However, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati vetoed the planned laying of a branch railway line for Dhubuliya to Mayapur and construction of a bridge over the Ganga from Navadvipa to Mayapur, fearing that by giving easy access to all stripes of hodgepodge people, Mayapur would become as commercialised as modern Navadvipa. Privately he said “Don’t increase the weight of the dhama by bringing materialistic people here to pass stool.” He wanted that except during festivals, the pristine environment suitable for bhajana be preserved…” Volume 1 Page 365
We are not doing too well in this regard so far. Apart from the stool problem, Lee Atkinson a visitor to Mayapur from the Sydney Herald recently wrote: “The commercial activity (in Mayapur) is in stark contrast to the spot revered as the birthplace of Hare Krishna about 550 years ago, which is just across the river in the village of Nabadwip. There a primitive temple sits entwined in the large roots of a banyan tree in the middle of the village marketplace.”
This is not the vision Prabhupada wanted us to project, but thankfully its not too late, we have room to improve. But to do so means to take a little time to understand what Srila Prabhupada meant by Vedic Culture. He doesn’t give great stress to the development of guesthouses. Obviously with the ToVP coming up we are going to need many more guest facilities, but we should balance that with Prabhupada’s directives for a living Vedic Culture.
In 1978 we find that those directives were firmly on track; from BTG…
“In a Krsna conscious cultural setting, society works smoothly with four natural divisions: brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras. “In our community at present,” says Jayapataka Swami, “you’ll see the seedlings or beginning stages of the four basic social divisions. We have primary and secondary education for about a hundred full-time resident students. We have a dairy, agricultural fields, and orchards. We have a handloom center that engages about fifty resident workers. Cooks, priests, teachers, students, administrators, farmers—gradually we’re developing every occupational division of our society.”
Clearly, the Mayapur community differs vastly from most others—especially in the planning and organization behind it. This community engages everyone in his natural occupation, with Krsna as the center. Whatever occupation you perform, you can do it in a spirit of devotion to the Lord and in a Krsna conscious atmosphere. “We have industries,” says Jayapataka Swami, “but they’re small-scale cottage industries that can be run without big factories, pollution, and hellish working conditions. In our Mayapur-candrodaya community, the residents work under very pleasant conditions, with beautiful natural scenery, trees, parks, lakes, and the chanting of Hare Krsna.”
“The atmosphere here is conducive to spiritual life,” explains Bhavananda Goswami, “and everyone can work according to his natural propensity. That’s because, despite centuries of foreign rule and today’s materialistic trend, the Bengalis still respect Vedic Culture. Here the people are pious. This is a place to begin showing the world a perfect Krsna conscious society.” BTG #131978 A Krsna Conscious City.
Tamal Krsna Maharaja wrote in his ‘Servant of the Servant’: “Under Prabhupada’s guidance they learned to practice the techniques of spiritual life. Naturally, as they made advancement, they became eager to share this knowledge with others. Centers of Krsna consciousness were established throughout the world: temples, schools, farming communities, restaurants. And at the center of this growing worldwide network was Mayapur, that place from which it had all begun.
As the hub sits at the center of the spokes of a wheel, so Mayapur is the transcendental hub for the Krsna conscious world. It is not merely a vision, or a memory of the past, but a dynamic center of spiritual education. The Temple of Understanding which Prabhupada envisioned will include a planetarium demonstrating the Vedic explanation of the sun, the planets, and stars in their rotations. Scientists throughout the world will come to study and appreciate this as a great breakthrough in their comprehension of the universe. There will be exhibitions displaying the factual laws of karma and reincarnation, and historical dioramas depicting events clearly described in the Vedas but yet undiscovered by mundane researchers. Practical demonstrations will be given throughout this entire spiritual city of how one may lead a Krsna conscious life while taking a meaningful role in society.
Servant of the servant. Tamal Krsna Goswami # 3 #16
(to be continued)