Chakra Living

New Vrindaban and Gas Drilling: High Thinking or Not?

by Tattva Dasa

Posted October 12, 2009

In the early nineties as the scamkirtan dollars dried up and old leaders faded into the sunset there was a lot of talk that perhaps New Vrindaban's detour away from Prabhupada's instructions toward things like simple living, natural farming, and self sufficiency and toward mass collecting of funds to develop the place as a preaching mecca complete with a spiritual Disneyland might have been a major blunder.

Fueled by the mantra "the money is the honey," hundreds of sincere New Vrindaban devotees spent years not building homes, cultivating the land, and becoming proficient in matters of self sufficiency but instead prodding people at events and in parking lots across the country for donations with pleas for feeding people, caring for orphans, and supporting boys schools.

Now, a scarce fifteen years later a new plan to build New Vrindaban with dollars acquired in a manner many devotees see as directly contrary to Srila Prabhupada's vision for a "Transcendental place of pilgrimage in the west," are at the forefront of the mind of the current leaders of New Vrindaban.

With the countries fervor to cut America's dependency on foreign oil and the recent development of new technology that now allows the natural gas companies to drill down deeper into the earth comes the emergence of a vast supply of such gas in the layer of Marcellus shale lying .....feet below the surface.

Of course we agree with the idea that natural gas may be a step up from dependency on foreign oil but for many that is not really the issue. The real question is what is the right decision for the leaders of Iskcon to make in regard to this sacred place in light of Srila Prabhupada's instruction and vision.

Of course there are many places in Srila Prabhupada's book where he addresses the issue of drilling into the earth and mining of resources. We will not in this short space include these. Instead we will include a letter from Srila Prabhupada to Hayagriva in direct reference to the New Vrindaban Project. It was sent to Hayagriva after Srila Prabhupada reviewed the lease for the original property:

"Even if the government does not acquire our land, if in our vacinity some such Industry (coal or oil industry) is started, the whole idea of New Vrindavan will fade away.

Vrindavan conception is a transcendental village, without any botheration of the modern industrial atmosphere. My idea of developing New Vrindavan is to create an atmosphere of spiritual life where people in bona fide order of social division, namely, brahmacaris, grhasthas, vanaprasthas, sannyasis, or specifically brahmacharis, sannyasis and vanaprasthas will live there independently on agricultural produce and milk from the cows. The life should be simplified without being hampered by laboring day and night for economic development, without any spiritual understanding. The New Vrindavan idea is that persons who live there will accept the bare necessities of life to maintain the body and soul together and the major part of time should be engaged in the development of Krsna consciousness.

The whole Vedic principle is to develop Krsna consciousness, without creating much botheration for the program of sense gratification. Industrial development (or mining operation) in the neighboring places will mar the whole idea.

Now you have to consider yourself, looking forward to the future of the land, and then decide what to do. I do not like to have New Vrindavan with industrial or mining areas. I have got experience of them in India, that the mining are simply next to dungeon. The workers in the mines are considered to be residing in hell. And we can never expect any good behavior from such workers. So we must think of the atmosphere around Vrindavan.

In India also, our present government are trying to develop industries in the vast tracts of land around Vrindavan and creating a hellish atmosphere. So I request you to be assured of the future of the land, and then do the needful. The summary is that the face of the lease agreement appears to be alright, but I am thinking of a spiritual development. I hope you have received my previous letter and I am expecting your reply as soon as possible."

      Excerpt from Srila Prabhupada's letter to Hayagriva

The line in the above letter that this writer considered the most was, "The summary is that the face of the lease agreement appears to be alright, but I am thinking of a spiritual development.

So for me the question is this. Can we come to a healthy spiritual conclusion/development by obtaining monies in a manner that might be directly contradictory to what Srila Prabhupada instructed us? In my experience we at New Vrindavan have done that before and although we built many buildings one would be hard pressed to consider the final result for the community members as a healthy spiritual development. Please write in to and let us know what you think.