Seeding ISKCON’S Rural Future

Foreword

I cannot think of any devotee whom I know, or have heard of, who is not contributing in some way to the destruction of the environment–myself included. I own two farm trucks, three tractors and a small flotilla of oil gulping farm-related equipment–all of it in pursuit of chasing the dream of plain living and high thinking.

I’ve often considered that living undestructively in an economy that is overwhelmingly destructive might mean morphing into a vegetarian version of the Amish. We would have to divorce ourselves completely, and yet responsibly, from the technologies and powers that are destroying the planet.  Easier said than done, Prabhus.

In the formative years of ISKCON, those of us privileged to spend most of our young adult years living in the ashram never thought much about these taxing issues. We cruised through our daily service as book distributors, fundraisers, preachers and temple functionaries under the protection of a comprehensive insurance policy called the yukta-vairagya principle, the idea that everything–cars, computers, etc.–can and should be used in Lord Krishna’s service. At least that’s how we explained our embrace of modern conveniences to new people.

Well, times have changed. Young people are circumspect about adopting any philosophy whose followers fail to “walk the talk.” They want to see plain living in motion. They want proof that plain living leads to higher thinking. Do ISKCON farm projects provide that example? Do we offer an alternative approach to cut throat capitalism? Do we honor and care for our senior devotees? Do we supply most of our own food calories? Do young people see a future?

Central to all these queries is whether or not ISKCON’s current organizational structure as a 501(c)3 non-profit church is capable of providing real life answers to these questions.

And that, dear readers, is precisely why Danakeli Dasi’s second installment of Community by Design is a must read. Her research and analytical breakdown of these issues deserves our attention. She puts the options on the table for all–beginner and seasoned veteran–to contemplate and act on. Please read on.

Tapahpunja Dasa

Continue reading “Seeding ISKCON’S Rural Future”

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Rural KC Communities: The Need, the Purpose and What Srila Prabhupada Asked For

Foreword

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.

Tapahpunja Dasa

Community by Design (Part One — Preface)

In the spring of 2014 a discussion amongst friends centered on how we would go about starting a rural community in the United States if a large sum of money happened to fall into our laps. We thought about the need for intentional design and considered the logistical reasons as to why community development has not yet happened successfully for ISKCON in America. Continue reading “Rural KC Communities: The Need, the Purpose and What Srila Prabhupada Asked For”