Creating the Land of Krsna In Hungary
Here Devotees Are Developing a Community With Krsna in the Center And Free From The Bad Influences of The Age.
VRAJA DHAMA is another name for Vrndavana, Lord Krsna's eternal residence in the spiritual world and the transcendental arena for His all-attractive pastimes when He comes to earth. New Vraja Dhama is a community founded on the idea of expanding the mood of Krsna's sacred place in India to other parts of the world. As in Vrndavana, Lord Krsna resides in New Vraja Dhama as the cause and recipient of selfless devotion.
Located approximately two-hours' drive from Budapest, the capital of Hungary, New Vraja Dhama is a manifestation of Srila Prabhupada's desire for self-sufficient country communities. Inspired by His Holiness Sivarama Swami, the devotees here have succeeded in capturing the mood of a genuine holy place in this remote part of the world. New Vraja Dhama's 450 acres of prime agricultural land boast hundreds of fruit trees and acres of grapevines. Purchased in 1993, it is home to approximately 150 devotees.
While complete self-sufficiency is the goal of New Vraja Dhama, at this stage some money is still needed, and it is acquired partly through a special law in Hungary that allows people to donate one percent of their owed taxes to a religion of their choice. The donations can be given only during the first two months of the year, so at that time many devotees leave the farm to collect contributions, which seem to come easily because of the popularity of the Hare Krsna movement in Hungary.
Srila Prabhupada had many plans for elevating society to a better way of life. He said that "books are the basis" for the Hare Krsna movement, and he took much time to translate dozens of ancient India's sacred texts. These books not only give the greatest philosophy and logic but also contain the blueprint for a way of life radically different from our present mechanized society and much more beneficial for humanity.
Three months before leaving this world, in 1977, Srila Prabhupada became keen to teach his disciples (and the world at large) how one could live off the land simply and peacefully, without dependence on artificial amenities. Even though very ill, to show how it could be done he wanted to travel to America to Gita Nagari, a Hare Krsna community in rural Pennsylvania. Sadly, his health prevented the trip.
Although he promoted the simple life, Prabhupada was not an enemy of machines, and they are currently being used effectively to spread Krsna consciousness. Citing the example of using a thorn to remove a thorn, Prabhupada used high-tech equipment to promote simple living. Why? Because these things could speed up the propagation of Krsna consciousness, the goal of which is to teach dependence on God, not on machines.
Most people today object to the idea of returning to a simple life, saying that modern conveniences have made life so much easier, more enjoyable, and interesting. They say that going back to the land would be a step back to a less civilized and enlightened age.
One could write volumes of books debating the superiority of one way of life over the other, but the main point is that the biggest problems of life, namely birth, death, old age, and disease, are just as present today as ever. If living simpler helps solve those problems by making our minds less distracted by artificial stimulation, surely that must be better. If we have more time and our life is molded for thinking and serving Lord Krsna, we will be happier.
One major problem is that Westernized people think they are more intelligent because they have so many machines, and that only "simple" people live off the land. It's a shame that modern man has no conception of the ideal traditional way of life in the Indian village. It hardly exists today, for reasons too numerous to present here, but the Supreme Lord Krsna Himself designed the world to be lived in that way. Tampering with His plan and trying to adjust things as we have, in the name of progress, may give the illusion of an easier life, but present-day reality hardly gives rise to optimism. In fact, the very worst problems terrorism, atomic warfare, anthrax, airplane hijackings, and so on can exist only in a mechanized society.
Although the New Vraja Dhama community started fairly recently and has a long way to go to be a perfect model of self-sufficiency, there's plenty of evidence there that Srila Prabhupada's vision of "simple living and high thinking" can become a practical solution to modern man's problems. From my visit I saw how devotees were happy living the simple life.
Temple At The Center Of Life
I was fortunate enough to visit New Vraja Dhama on the special occasion of Radhasami, the sacred birthday of Srimati Radharani, Lord Krsna's beloved consort. There was a special atmosphere in the temple, lit by oil lamps, as devotees gathered at 4:30 A.M. for mangala-arati, the first ceremony of the day. They decorated their eyes with the forms of Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, the presiding deities of the community. Beholding the beautiful deities and hearing the pure chanting of the maha-mantra, I felt transported to that eternal abode of the Lord, Sri Vrndavana Dhama.
The temple is a fitting complement to the radiant beauty of the deities and acts like a powerful magnet to draw everyone into its own unique jewellike interior. Everything about it is highly devotional. From the vibrant colors to the artwork and the intricate trim work, everything intoxicates the senses, as if one had opened the door to the spiritual world. I could see why devotees seemed so enthusiastic about going to the temple.
I was amazed by the cleanliness of the temple. Every day I saw several devotees, both male and female, happily washing windows, polishing floors, and dusting ceilings and walls. They must have known well that they were simultaneously cleaning their own hearts. On seeing such a spotless home for the Lord, my mind felt refreshed.
In the ideal self-sufficient way of life, Lord Krsna Himself in His deity form is the center of the community. Even in modern India, deities like Radha-Govinda in Jaipur and Lord Jagannatha in Puri are still devotedly worshiped daily by thousands of devotees. Similarly, in New Vraja Dhama the deities are obviously served with great love and devotion. Seriously following the principles of sadhana-bhakti, the scientific process of scheduled devotional activities, the devotees seem highly committed to their spiritual development, which is centered on the temple. Maybe this accounts for the enthusiastic, carefree mood. Knowing that so many devotees would be there chanting and dancing, I looked forward to the morning prayers with great eagerness.
The devotees at New Vraja Dhama happily welcome many guests to the community, and receiving guests is an important part of their lives. Last year, more than twenty thousand guests visited. Guests seem impressed by what they see the guest lodge, the Vrndavana-style lakes and bathing places, the pottery, the art studio, the bakery, the restaurant, the gift shop, the gorgeous temple room. In exchange for their endeavor to visit New Vraja Dhama, their senses are rewarded with a variety of devotional treats: bhajanas, philosophy, Oriya dance, books, and of course prasadam. Seeing the guests pleasantly intoxicated by Krsna's special bliss, the devotees themselves naturally become happy as they explain the meaning of the paintings or the position of Srila Prabhupada.
Cow Protection And Ox Power
Just as in the original Vraja Dhama, where Lord Krsna, as the son of Nanda Maharaja, the king of the cowherd men, takes care of many cows, the devotees here also care for and protect this most valuable of creatures. According to Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of the Vedas, given by the Lord in His form of Dhanvantari, cow's milk is the most beneficial food. Lord Krsna Himself especially loves food offerings prepared with milk products. From ghee (clarified butter), butter, yogurt, buttermilk, and of course milk itself, so many tasty and healthy preparations can be made. Even in our degraded Kali-yuga, the present Age of Quarrel, the cow's by products are still very popular. Whether it's milk on their cereals, cream in their coffee, ice-cream, yogurt, or lux-ury leather seats in their cars, most people still benefit from mother cow. Sadly, father bull, the symbol of religion, is cruelly slaughtered, because ox power is one of those so-called primitive practices that has been replaced by the tractor.
Here, though, both the cows and oxen are valued as essential to the community. The oxen look satisfied using their strong bodies to plow the land or pull cartloads of wood, and the cows produce milk products for the offerings to the deities. By their service these animals make spiritual progress and live out their natural lives, unlike their kin whose nondevotee owners slaughter them when they are no longer profitable.
The Natural Life
Life without electricity, at least here, doesn't seem to present a problem. Although there are a few solar panels to power computers and other machines for spreading Krsna consciousness, life seems a lot more peaceful without electricity. Most of the cooking and heating is done with wood from the devotees' own land. Dried cow dung, renowned as the best cooking fuel, is used in the deity kitchen. The temple, the deities' sanctum, and the houses all use attractive glazed-tile furnaces for heating. Even water for bathing is heated with wood in unusual but efficient water heaters. Some of the water comes from the local village, but many of the twenty or so houses have their own hand-operated wells beside them. Washing is done by hand using hot water from the wood stoves.
Setting up all the aspects of the ideal Vedic village may take many generations. Because pleasure is the motivating principle for all living beings, the way of life needs to be so satisfying that people won't want to give it up and won't miss cinemas, TV, and so on. Practiced properly, the natural way of life is far superior to the unnatural urban alternative. Every day is something of a festival. With lots of chanting and dancing, a high standard of deity worship, captivating explanations of the scriptures, regular dramas with colorful costumes and touching portrayals of Krsna's pastimes, dances, musical events, marriages, fire sacrifices, and huge celebrations on special days like Janmastami (Krsna's birthday), life can be like the spiritual world. Of course, there is also plenty to do to survive, but everything is enhanced by the mood of devotion.
Srila Prabhupada used to quote the British poet William Cowper as saying, "God made the country, and man made the town." Life in the city means economic development and artificial necessities. Working for money to buy these things requires the mode of passion. Country life means living in the mode of goodness, appreciating the beauty of nature, the running stream, the peacefulness of God's creation.
While devotees find cities good for distributing books and interesting people in Krsna consciousness, for the majority of married devotees, the rural way of life is much cheaper, healthier, more peaceful, more conducive to raising children, and more in line with the ideal social structure presented by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita. Known as the varnasrama system, it depends on four classes of men to make a complete society whose interdependence is essential and mutually beneficial. The head of society is the brahmanas, who guide; the arms are the ksatriyas, who protect; the stomach is the vaisyas, who trade, farm, and protect cows; and the legs are the sudras, who provide labor and other services. Unlike the modern-day corrupt caste system of India, in varnasrama anyone, regardless of birth, can achieve the highest position if qualified. No class is better than the others, because each is essential. Without cow protection, this way of life does not work, because farming will need tractors, which require money, and the whole scheme collapses.
So far, New Vraja Dhama has only a few children, because the residents are young. But they have built a large building where youth will receive an education based more on service to God than on preparing to fit into a chaotic society. The plan is for future generations to be able to provide for themselves by staying and using their natural talents, whether in pottery, farming, painting, teaching, protecting others, or running a restaurant.
Because we live in such an artificial environment today and eat unnaturally, many children, at least in America, are prescribed tranquilizers to calm them down. Here the children have plenty of space to run around and lots of home-grown foods to nourish their growing bodies.
The main purpose of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is to teach people that we are all eternal servants of Lord Krsna and that to love Him is real satisfaction for the soul. Cities are good for spreading that message. But to completely transform people's lives saving them from a world where they're forced to warm the globe, eat pesticides, drive to work at breakneck speed, or work in a factory or a nuclear-power plant New Vraja Dhama is the right kind of place. It can shelter people from the bad influences of this age and let them associate with like-minded people. They can live peacefully, in harmony with Krsna, and at the end of this life go back to the eternal Vrndavana in the spiritual world.
Here are some of the things being done at New Vraja Dhama in the quest for self-sufficiency:
• Temple constructed using rammed-earth walls and other traditional techniques
• Temple lit by traditional oil lamps or by lamps that burn oil pressed from locally grown rape seeds
• Very little use of electricity
• Most electricity generated by solar panels
• Heating by super-efficient wood-burning stoves, using wood sustainably harvested from a fifty-acre forest plot
• Home-grown fruits and vegetables (600 fruit trees)
• Home-grown and ground wheat
• Honey from bee-keeping
• Oxen used for farming and transport
• Cows giving milk for an endless variety of milk products
Adikarta Dasa joined ISKCON in 1974. He lives with his wife and two of his five children in Prabhupada Village, an aspiring self-sufficient community in North Carolina. He lectures on Krsna consciousness at colleges, distributes Prabhupada's books, grows a few fruits and vegetables, and milks the cows now and again.