The semi-annual joint board meetings with ECO-Vrindaban, ISKCON New Vrindaban, and the Village Council took place on October 15-17. The meetings consisted of several open sessions and a few closed sessions over the three days. On Friday afternoon, the board members of all three groups met in a private session to share their agendas for the weekend. Then there was a kirtan held at Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold led by Vrindavan Priya Devi Dasi and a beautiful Gaura-arati led by Banabhatta Das). This was followed by a fantastic feast including veggie balls in marinara sauce, pasta, vegetable soup, bread, and apple crisp. Everyone enjoyed taking prasadam together, and the meetings got off to an enlivening start.
Saturday morning started off right with a massive turnout at mangal-arati, ecstatic kirtan, and class. However, the whole weekend was sobered by the news of the attacks on our ISKCON temple in Bangladesh. After the initial kirtan at the meetings, Anuttama Prabhu replaced the fun icebreaker he had planned with an update on the Bangladesh situation. This was a reality check on how devotees in other parts of the world are struggling in extremely antagonistic situations. We prayed for the protection of our fellow devotees in Bangladesh with a heartfelt singing of the Nrsimhadeva prayers.
After this, each group made their presentations, starting with ECO-Vrindaban. They shared some of their vision, with an update on the new couple who have just moved to New Vrindaban to assist with the high tunnels. They presented their plans for following Srila Prabhupada’s guidelines for maintaining New Vrindaban’s herd of cows at 50-100 with seven to nine milking cows and distributing the necessary milk, butter, and ghee to the temple for the deities. ECO-Vrindaban is focusing on the high tunnels for producing flowers and food for the temple and creating an endowment fund for the land, the cows, and offering loans to devotees. They also shared their plans for the upcoming Housing Development, Bahulaban Heights, which will be making parcels of land available to devotees.
Jaya Krsna Prabhu made the ISKCON New Vrindaban presentation, sharing the development of some of the new projects that are going on at the temple. He reviewed some of the challenges that INV went through during covid, such as having a shortage of devotees to cover the temple services but expressed gratitude for all those who assisted in maintaining the worship by Krishna’s grace.
The Village Council gave a presentation on devotee care. Although devotee care is an independent department, so to speak, they are under the auspices of the Village Council, and everyone was very enlivened by the presentations by Bhaktin Beverley and Lilasuka Devi Dasi which resulted in a nice discussion.
After a wonderful lunch, the team came together again in a work group to discuss how the Village Council can move forward in terms of devotee care and other concerns that come under their umbrella, such as how to attract youth to New Vrindaban. That meeting ended in a fantastic dinner at the community hall.
Sunday started with another enthusiastic mangal arati followed by a class by Anuttama Prabhu. After breakfast, devotees assembled for a community tour to Old Vrindaban where they heard about the plans that are unfolding there. The group then visited the high tunnels, the warehouse, the new shop, and more, to see on the ground level what is going on in and around New Vrindaban. Sunday’s meetings ended with a procession and a heart-warming memorial for Nrsimha Caitanya Prabhu and Sri Rupa Ramesvari Mataji.
The weekend ended on an uplifting note. Unlike some of the previous joint meetings, the mood was not charged or conflictual but very positive and enlivening. There was a sense of camaraderie and a real willingness to work together to move New Vrindaban forward for the benefit of the whole community and the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada.