The above photo of Manonath and Tejomaya clutching bushel baskets of New Vrindaban fall produce has a lot of personal meaning for me. The three of us received Harinama initiation on a bitter cold November morning–Govardhana Puja Day 1974. They were New York street kids from Harlem. I was in charge of the organic gardens. What we had in common was hope–the hope that by learning to live, work and worship together, we could change the world. As Danakeli Dasi’s essay, Community by Design, masterfully points out, developing rural KC communities begins by recognizing where we’ve failed, what our options are and what Srila Prabhupada envisioned. It is in a spirit of gratitude for Danakeli’s timely research and analysis that we herein present Community by Design as a series of bite-sized forays into the future. We’ve taken the liberty of adding some graphics and an audacious foreword of our own.
The Venue: Srimad Bhagavatam class, 1975, in New Vrindaban Farm Community. It’s 5:30 AM on a chilly morning. The temple room is packed with curious New Vrindaban residents — hardly anyone over 25 years old — eager to hear the visiting American sannyasi who has been successfully preaching in India.
Acyutananda Swami wasted no time. His fiery takedown of Mayavada philosophy was highlighted by his experiences in India with wit, candor and righteous indignation. Acyutananda roasted the heralded 19th century Indian monk, Swami Vivekananda, who reportedly said, ”Why worship the Tulasi plant? Better to worship the eggplant! At least you get an edible fruit from the eggplant!”
One of Srila Prabhupada’s direct instructions to the pioneer residents of New Talavan Community in 1975 was to grow castor beans. Traditionally. in India, castor is grown for its multiple medicinal values as well as for lamp oil and that’s specifically why Prabhupada wanted it grown: to harness a renewable source of lighting. Finally, in 2014 Radha Maha Laksmi Devi Dasi donated the funds to purchase a Swedish designed state-of-the-art seed oil press capable of extracting fine oil out of any seed. The press was so expertly engineered that the initial efforts to master its use all failed. Finally, Croatian born Nanda-suta Dasa tinkered with the machine and made it function properly. He and Dvi Bhuja Dasa, the founder of Blue Boy Herb Co., immediately pressed a batch of okra seeds only to yield a beautiful flow of golden green okra oil. Okra oil is known as the ghee of Africa. In 2018, New talavan residents are teaming up to plant a one acre plot of castor beans in pursuit of Srila Prabhupada’s 1975 order. Better late than never.
We composed ‘Vegan Reality Check’ spontaneously after viewing the documentary ‘Cowspiracy’ in our mini-movie theatre. In fact, showing ‘Cowspiracy’ to new farm apprentices is part of the curriculum. Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn, the producers and directors of ‘Cowspiracy,’ did a great job exposing the hypocrisy of the well healed, well funded green organizations who deliberately go mum on the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. But (there’s always a but), the film’s demonization of cows and milk products was a real shocker, an indicator that neither Anderson nor Kuhn understand or respect the historical and traditional import of cows and bulls in human society. So, we slapped together a quick script and the rest is history. Sorry, PETA, but there’s another side to the story.