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Vaišnavský Blog

Autor: Drutakarma Dasa

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s visit to Vrndavana opened the doors to the spiritual world for all humanity.

Among the sacred cities of the world, Vrndavana is probably the least well known. Yet this small town in northern India ranks with Rome, Jerusalem, and Mecca as a center of worship. It was in Vrndavana that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, displayed His transcendental pastimes during His appearance on this planet some five thousand years ago. Over the course of centuries, the places of Krsna’s pastimes were lost to human memory, until they were rediscovered in the sixteenth century by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krsna Himself in the role of His own devotee.

Lord Chaitanya

But Vrndavana is more than a place of historical importance. According to the teachings of Lord Caitanya, the earthly Vrndavana is a replica of Goloka Vrndavana, Lord Krsna’s eternal abode in the spiritual sky. Great souls with transcendental vision can actually perceive this and worship Vrndavana as nondifferent from the Lord Himself.

This consideration led one of Lord Caitanya’s dearmost associates, Sri Gadadhara Pandita, to say to Lord Caitanya as He departed from the city of Jagannatha Puri on His journey to Vrndavana, “Wherever You stay is Vrndavana. Although where You stay is Vrndavana, You still go to Vrndavana just to instruct people.”

Srila Prabhupada explains, “It was not essential for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to go to Vrndavana, for wherever He stayed was immediately transformed into Vrndavana. . . . He said that His very mind was Vrndavana(mora mana vrndavana). Because His mind was Vrndavana, all the pastimes of Radha [Lord Krsna’s eternal consort and the personification of His supreme pleasure energy] and Krsna were taking place within Himself. Nonetheless, just to teach people, He visited bhauma-vrndavana, Vrndavana-dhama in this material world. In this way the Lord instructed everyone to visit Vrndavana-dhama, which is a very holy place.”

The Lord departed Jagannatha Puri at the end of the night, unseen by others. Taking only two brahmana assistants with Him, He avoided the main roads and passed into the Jharikhanda forest. Caitanya’s biographer, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, states that while Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was passing through the jungle, all the does and five or seven tigers came and began to follow the Lord. “Seeing the tigers and deer following Him, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately remembered the land of Vrndavana. He then began to recite a verse describing the transcendental quality of Vrndavana: ‘Vrndavana is the transcendental abode of the Lord. There is no hunger, anger, or thirst there. Though naturally inimical, human beings and fierce animals live together there in transcendental friendship.’ When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, ‘Chant Krsna! Krsna!’ the tigers and deer began to dance and chant “Krsna!”‘

After passing through the Jharikhanda forest, Lord Caitanya arrived in Benares and proceeded to Prayaga, finally arriving at Mathura, where forty-five centuries before, Krsna had taken birth in the prisonhouse of King Kamsa. Immediately after Krsna appeared, His father Vasudeva had carried Him across the river Yamuna to the region of Vrndavana, where Krsna displayed His childhood pastimes for the pleasure of His devotees. In Mathura, Lord Caitanya met a brahmana devotee of Lord Krsna, who served as His guide to the Vrndavana area.

Krsnadasa Kaviraja states, “The mind of Sri Caitanya was absorbed in ecstatic love at Jagannatha Puri, but when He passed along the road on the way to Vrndavana, that love increased a hundred times. The Lord’s ecstatic love increased a hundred times when He visited Mathura, but it increased a thousand times when He wandered in the forests of Vrndavana. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was elsewhere, the very name of Vrndavana was sufficient to increase His ecstatic love. Now, when He was actually traveling in Vrndavana Forest, His mind was absorbed in great ecstatic love day and night. He ate and bathed simply out of habit.”

While in Vrndavana, the Lord rediscovered many important places of Krsna’s pastimes. Among such places are Radha-kunda and Syama-kunda, two ponds that featured prominently in Krsna’s Vrndavana pastimes five thousand years ago. When Sri Caitanya asked the local inhabitants about the location of these two places, they were not able to tell Him. By virtue of His supreme knowledge, the Lord then located the two ponds (in areas that were then being used as rice fields) and took His bath there. He prayed, “Of all the gopas[Krsna’s confidential spiritual associates, the cowherd girls of Vrndavana], Radharani is the dearmost. Similarly, the lake known as Radha-kunda is very dear to the Lord because it is very dear to Srimati Radharani. In that lake, Lord Krsna and Srimati Radharani used to sport daily in the water and have a rasadance on the bank. Indeed, Lord Krsna gives ecstatic love like that of Srimati Radharani to whoever bathes in that lake even once.”

The Lord then visited Govardhana Hill. Seeing it from a distance, He was overcome with ecstasy, and when He arrived He fell down upon the ground as if mad. Dancing and chanting, He recited this verse: “O My friends, this hill supplies Krsna and Balarama [Krsna’s elder brother in His Vrndavana pastimes], as well as Their calves, cows, and cowherd friends, with all kinds of necessities water for drinking, very soft grass, caves, fruits, flowers, and vegetables. In this way the hill offers respect to the Lord. Being touched by the feet of Krsna and Balarama, Govardhana Hill appears jubilant.”

In this spirit, the Lord visited all the places connected with Lord Krsna’s pastimes in Vrndavana. Eventually, the Lord returned to Puri in Orissa. On the return journey He gave confidential instructions to His chief disciples, Srila Rupa Gosvami, and Srila Sanatana Gosvami. He advised them to reside in Vrndavana and reconstruct the places of Krsna’s pastimes.

Krsnadasa Kaviraja states, “Srila Sanatana Gosvami collected some books about archeological excavations in Mathura, and wandering in the forest, he sought to renovate all those holy places.” Sri Kavikarna-pura states inCaitanya-candrodaya: “In the course of time, the transcendental news of Krsna’s pastimes in Vrndavana was almost lost. To enunciate explicitly those transcendental pastimes, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at Prayaga, empowered Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami with the nectar of His mercy to carry out this work in Vrndavana.” In addition to discovering the sites of Krsna’s pastimes, Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, along with other followers of Lord Caitanya, erected many beautiful temples that pilgrims may still visit.

Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya and His confidential associates, also assisted in the renovation of Vrndavana as an important place of pilgrimage. He was especially eager to give Westerners the opportunity to visit Vrndavana, which lies off the main tourist routes and lacked accommodation suitable for those unaccustomed to the austere facilities preferred by Indian pilgrims. For this purpose Srila Prabhupada established the Krishna-Balaram temple and the adjoining international guesthouse, with clean, nicely furnished rooms with baths. A first-class vegetarian restaurant provides nourishing, spiritually purifying meals of krsna-prasadam, food offered to the Supreme Lord with love and devotion.

In the opulent temple itself, very much beloved by the residents of Vrndavana, are found exquisite Deities of Krsna and Balarama, who five thousand years ago played with Their cowherd friends in the very same area, called Ramana-reti. On separate altars, worshipers also may find Deities of Radha and Krsna and of Lord Caitanya, whose visit to Vrndavana in the sixteenth century reestablished its importance as a place of pilgrimage.

The price of passage to Vrndavana cannot be calculated in monetary terms. Srila Prabhupada once said, “Sometimes, materialistic people who have no spiritual understanding go to Vrndavana as tourists. One who goes to Vrndavana with such materialistic vision cannot derive any spiritual benefit.” The real price is purification of consciousness through the process taught by Lord Caitanya: chanting the Hare Krsna mantra and avoiding the sinful activities of meat-eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. Anyone can start their journey to Vrndavana by putting Lord Caitanya’s process into practice in their own life. (Travel preparations can also include a visit to the nearest ISKCON temple, where you can experience the spiritual atmosphere of Vrndavana. Srila Prabhupada explains, “Because we live in the temples of Radha-Krsna and continuously hold hari-nama sankirtana chanting of Hare Krsna we consequently live in Vrndavana and nowhere else.”)

Knowledge of Vrndavana and the opportunity to visit this important holy place are great gifts to humanity, and we are indebted to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers. If life is a journey, we should carefully choose our destination. Lord Caitanya taught that life’s goal should be to return to Goloka Vrndavana, Krsna’s eternal abode in the spiritual sky. A journey to the earthly Vrndavana can be a vital part of that greater journey.


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Autor: Lalitanatha dasa

For the past 13 years ISKCON’s Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture (IMCPA) has organized a European conference for ISKCON farmers and anyone interested in agriculture and cow protection. The idea is to create networks and unite everyone towards Srila Prabhupada’s goals for cow protection and simple living. This year, 2019, the conference was hosted at the Krishna Dvur community in the Czech Republic between the 30th of August and the 1st of September. The participants were made up of the European regional representatives of the Ministry and many other key players with a committed interest in the realms of agriculture, cow protection, horticulture and rural development.

Everyone was treated to an exciting weekend in this ideal rural setting southeast of Prague where ISKCON has been running its farm community since 1977. About a dozen devotees directly live on or spend their day on the farm itself while another 80 devotees reside in the surrounding area and take part in the activities of the community including the Deity worship, festivals and spiritual programmes.

The participants were given a guided tour of the farm to its 40 hectars of fields of which 20 hectares are arable and 20 hectares are pasture and grass lands, and the barns, where 16 cows and bulls are being cared for. Premadatta Prabhu told how the cows are mostly Jersey with some Hungarian grey oxen. Two cows are currently giving 30 litres of milk per day between them. This is used by the temple from which they make butter, cheese and yogurt; milk products from outside are only bought during festivals.

The cows are rotationally grazed on 1 hectare strips which are changed about every 15 days. The farm grows its own hay and produces 100 round bales on 10 hectares of land plus their own straw for bedding (around 20 round bales per hectare). Each year the devotees also grow 25 tonnes of grains such as wheat, spelt, rye, buckwheat and peas; in addition there are also potatoes. The arable work follows a low till system where a covering crop is always planted to avoid bare land. The rotation systems consists of peas, wheat, rye and buckwheat.

Next, Radhavallabha Prabhu told about the vegetable growing in the vegetable garden of 500m2 which yields 1.5 to 2 tonnes of vegetables per year. This very productive patch of land only takes 300 hours of work per year and supplies the temple kitchen with most of its needed produce. Radhavallabha went on to tell how they specialize in drought resistant vegetables or at least grow the crops with little irrigation. Mulching plays an important part of their system to keep in moisture.

The tour also included a visit to the flour mill which has become a big business for the farm. In addition to the grain grown on the farm, 75 tonnes is purchased from outside to be made into flours and other ground products. Some of it is used in the bakery and the temple kitchen but most is sold at the market. The mill business is a main source of income for the farm. Five stone mills including the largest stone mill anywhere in middle Europe that can grind 500 kg in one hour are being run by two devotees who have milling and packing the flour as their full-time services. The devotees are producing quality flour which is in high demand around Czech. The bran left over from the milling business is fed to the cows.

Over the years the project has also developed other businesses so they are not dependent on donations. A bakery is producing a variety of products that are sold at farm markets as well as at the farm’s two restaurants, one in Prague and one in a local nearby town that the devotees are operating. There is also a honey production of about 1000 kgs per year and a fruit plantation that is planned to increase to 150 to 200 fruit trees.

On winding up the tour, Varnasrama Prabhu, temple president of Krishna Dvur, recognized that he doesn’t find the project complete; most of the labour in the fields is done with tractors and machinery. Much is to improve in order to come to the actual standard of self-sufficiency and reliance on the products of the cows and the land and the work of the oxen. This requires more devotees, however, so for now the farm is simply maintaining a stable situation which can then be upgraded whenever more devotees are ready to be part of the project.

***

Aside from relishing the scenery and quietude of the farm and the wonderful late-summer weather that graced the conference, the about 30 participants had talks on different farm related topics. At the opening session Kalakantha Prabhu, ISKCON’s minister for cow protection and agriculture, gave an overview of the work of the international ministry. He told how the continental farm conferences that started in Europe have been adopted in other parts of the world such as the USA, South America, India, Ukraine and the Baltic Region and Russia. Africa and Australasia will also soon hold such farm conferences.

An important GBC resolution from this year was especially the focus of a lot discussion:

Resolved: By Janmastami 2022 all ISKCON centres should develop a plan whereby all milk and milk products – butter, ghee, yogurt etc . – offered to the Deities are procured from protected cows. The centres may approach the International Ministry of Cow Protection for assistance.

The discussion targeted two audiences – the producers/farmers and the consumers/temples/devotees. As far as the farmers are concerned, Premarasa Prabhu who himself is heading up New Mayapur, a big farm community in Ukraine, explained how to establish good business plans for cow protection. Of course, devotees are not motivated by commercial interest. Still a business plan is needed to help avoid mistakes and make the service more efficient. Thus it is a plan for Krishna and the devotees and how to serve the cows and Krishna better.

Cow protection means a plan for life. Things needed to be considered include a description of the project with clear goals and purposes, sources of funding (voluntary donations or/and income from selling products), the schedule of the steps of the project, defining all the parameters such as land and cows, understanding the production process, the required manpower, equipment needs, legal issues, market possibilities, risk analysis, worst case scenarios and much more.

He also informed that as part of the mission in ensuring that cow protection is conducted with a long term view of sustainability the Ministry had the following resolution passed with the GBC:

Resolved: In order to start a cow protection project that will be accredited within ISKCON and accepted as an ISKCON supported project, a “Cow Protection Certificate of Readiness” needs to be obtained.

In Ukraine they are 100 km from the nearest big market. They decided that berries are a very effective use of land. They are organic and have a premium in the European market. The berries are picked, preserved by refrigeration and freezing and shipped to Europe.

Next Syamasundara Prabhu from the UK had an exercise with the participants to understand how much milk is required to cover the yearly needs of Deities at an ISKCON temple or centre. The group went through the logical steps to understand how dairy product needs are calculated into required milk yields and herd size of cows. For instance, if a Deity department requires 5 kg of ghee every week it becomes 260 kg per year. If 3 procent of the milk is pure butterfat, then 8.667 litres of milk are required to supply 260 kg ghee. If it is assumed that a cow will give 10.000 liters of milk over 4 years for each calf she bears, then about four actively milking cows will be required to supply this particular Deity department.

However, for the farmers to supply like this, the second audience, namely the consumers, i.e. temples and devotees, must pay a proper price for the milk. That was next discussed. A proper price may be somewhere around 5 euros per litre. This means that temples or whoever the consumers are will have to understand the value of milk. Of course, the first reaction will often be, ”But this is too expensive! In the stores you can get organic milk for one or one and half euro for one litre.” One participant brought up the point that this all a matter of a mental adjustment. If we are convinced about the value of milk then a proper price is not a problem. An example is the price that people are willing to pay for alcohol such as whiskey or vodka. A price for less than a litre of 20, 30 or 50 euros is not unusual – and that is for something that is harmful, gives you headaches and basically makes you unhappy and miserable! Still, some people are convinced of the value and therefore ready to pay such an exorbitant price. So what is the problem with paying a proper price for milk which is sattvic, healthy, produces fine brain tissue and makes one spiritually inclined? Milk is dharma in a liquid form; according to Vedic logic, artha or wealth comes from protecting dharma, so why should one be afraid of bankruptcy by paying a proper price for milk and supporting dharma?

Sitarama Prabhu from the UK then shared his experiences with running an actual ahimsa dairy farm. He outlined the starting and funding of the ahimsa dairy foundation. Initially he was working with an existing organic dairy farm but gradually took steps to be self-sustaining with his own land and own management system. Now he and the devotees of the Ahimsa Foundation have 48 acres of land in the village of Wing in Midengland near Leicester. A further 24 acres are being rented with an option to buy in 18 months.

It was a big endeavour to raise the funds to buy the farm. At first the devotees tried to get a bank loan, but as the bank wanted the cows as collateral Sitarama did not want to risk the cows so he preferred to loan from private individuals. Some of the funds were also provided by supporters on the promise of receiving a return in the form of milk in the future. Now the farm is run by milk sales that pay for the running operation whereas membership donations are used to pay back the loans and improve the infrastructure and development of the project which is a practical proof of how it is feasible to run a farm centered on the protection of cows.

Supplying milk from protected cows took up ninety percent of the discussion. But other presentations were also there. Devotees from New Vraja Dhama in Hungary explained how they are exploring self-sufficiency in cloth-making. They are growing flax and hemp and making material from it and also planning to get sheep for wool. At the conclusion of the conference Lalitanatha Dasa from Denmark gave a presentation about urban farming, making the point that farming, small-scale horticulture and self-suffiency the whole year around with vegetables, fruits and herbs are not limited to big farm projects in rural areas but is achievable for anyone with even a few square meters plot of land.

At the conclusion the participants voted on the conference for next year. An overwhelming majority took up Premarasa Prabhus offer to host the conference in Ukraine in 2020. Thus the European farm conference in 2020 will be held at the New Mayapur Ukrainian farm.


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Autor: asdfasd

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