The location of this project is excellent - Sri Sri Pancha Tattva's little temple is surrounded by beautiful nature and mountains. In fact, it is becoming a more and more popular area which attracts tourists and people who are seekers within the alternative scene: worshippers of Lord Siva, and people interested in yoga and alternative lifestyles. Perfect for preaching...!
"Actually, I have no desire to start the school in any city. City life,
especially in this age of Kali-yuga, is very much polluted. Poet Cowper stated that the city is made by man and the village is made by God. So in the village there is a natural tendency for Krishna consciousness, so we want to develop such atmosphere in New Vrindavan. Your cooperation in this matter will very much encourage me."
Srila Prabhupada was very fond of the New Vrindavan farm project and had high hopes and visions for it, oftentimes mentioning it as an ideal example for other devotees to follow.
At first glance, life in the city seems more comfortable and therefore more pleasurable. Little do we realise that the price we must pay for this so-called comfortable lifestyle is a high one – people have to work hard like asses to be able to pay for all the luxurious amenities. In this way, life becomes full of anxieties and fears, and people have no time to cultivate spiritual life.
Village life involves more austerities and physical work. Yet, in the long run, it saves time; is healthier for our body and mind, and creates an ideal environment for practising simple living and high thinking. Srila Prabhupada’s vision was to recreate Krishna’s village of Vrindavan to show the world how joyful and peaceful civilised human life is meant to be.
More than 50 years later, we have to admit that we have not been able to make much progress in fulfilling his desires and visions. As long as people
have the choice between a more comfortable life in the city and a more austere and simple life on a farm, it seems most people rather opt for the seemingly more convenient and comfortable alternative of city life. Maybe it would take a worldwide economic crash to finally force us to move in the direction of simple village life.
Village life also entails returning to crafts and learning manual skills like carpentry, ironwork, stone cutting, etc. in order to produce the necessities of life. I know a devotee living in a farm community in the Czech Republic who learnt how to build tiled stoves for people’s homes. Another devotee in the same community is a welder and blacksmith and learnt to produce very decorative metal work, such as gates and fences. Such kinds of skills and professions are absolutely necessary in order to develop self-sufficient farm communities.
They can be expanded to other crafts such as making silver jewellery, pottery, embroidery to sew outfits for the Deities, working with cloth designs through block printing, etc. Devotees thus become more and more independent from the outside society and can produce all kinds of goods which they can trade with devotees and non-devotees alike to obtain the necessities of life.
However, living in a farm community and having to drive 30 kms every day to the nearest city to sit in an office all day would defeat the whole purpose of simple living. Village life means we know how to produce something to earn our livelihood within the village.
Such a lifestyle is a wonderful experience for children – they have their parents around them all day, as the father does not have to leave the property to earn an income. Once the children are a little older, they will naturally be inspired to help the parents in their activities and thus become a contributing member of the family team.
Moreover, unless farm communities are guided by strong spiritual leadership, tamo-guna may easily set in, and as a result, the attendance of the morning program may become irregular. Village life can be described as a mixture between sattva-guna and tamo-guna – oftentimes, raja-guna is missing. As a result, devotees may become a little lax in their spiritual practice and standards. Many times I have observed devotees endeavouring, with the best of intentions, to start a farm community, with the project eventually falling apart due to a lack of sravanam kirtanam and strong spiritual leadership.
The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 served as a big eye-opener to me – I suddenly started to understand more deeply why Srila Prabhupada had so vehemently emphasised the need for farm projects. During the pandemic, life in the cities became even more hellish – the tendencies for gross violence and crime increased dramatically; many people became destitute and lost all orientation in life. People were lost in frustration, anger and hatred and often turned towards intoxication, thus losing all good intelligence. In this way, the atmosphere in the cities had become increasingly destructive
and hostile. Srila Prabhupada predicts this tendency in a letter to Kurusrestha dasa dated 23rd July 1973:
"I can understand your concern about the deterioration of the civilisation.
Yes, the city will be more dangerous place as Kali-yuga advances. It will be very deteriorating. The modern civilisation is so corrupt and as sinful activities are more and more committed, the people will be forced to face more troubles, by nature’s order."
As Kali-yuga advances further, it will become crucial for devotees to withdraw more and more from the madness of degradation and sinful life in the cities and establish self-sufficient farm communities, where they can bring up their children in a safe and healthy environment – protected from all kinds of degrading and demoniac influences. This will no doubt make Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtan movement powerful and offer an attractive alternative to those who are seeking a wholesome way of life and desire to spiritualise their goals and lifestyle.
On the 16th of August I flew on to Paris....
Your servant, Devaki dd
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