Bhaktin Monique chops panir cubes while serving in the kitchen
A new program at New Vrindaban in West Virginia, dubbed “Seva-Yoga,” has been launched to help guests build a relationship with Krishna through service.
“It evolved naturally from an experience we had over the weekend of Gaura Purnima,” says New Vrindaban Lodge Manager Sarah. “We were short-staffed for various different services, so a team of people like the temple president Jaya Krishna, communications director Anuradha, and others jumped in to help clean the rooms to get them ready for the new guests. Because of Covid and the extra cleaning protocols, everything takes longer than usual. But at the end of the day, everyone was so elated. There was a sense of, this is exactly what service is. So we wanted to recreate the experience for guests. Because when you serve in any capacity, you’re cleaning your heart.”
Seva-Yoga runs seven days a week. Guests sign up for the service they’re interested in at the New Vrindaban Welcome Center, then meet at a set time and location with the service captain overseeing a particular category.
The four service categories are 1) kitchen services – including cleaning the bhoga room and spice shelf, general cleaning of the kitchen area, cutting vegetables, and washing pots; 2) landscaping – including cleaning the grounds and weeding the gardens; 3) serving prasadam; and 4) cleaning the Deity kitchen.
All services require following of Covid safety protocols such as masks and social distancing, while kitchen services also require gloves, hairnets and aprons. Prasadam is served outdoors, and there are heightened cleaning standards to ensure that all surfaces are disinfected.
Sarah picks Tulasi Manjari flowers and makes Manjari garlands
“To love is to serve,” reads the Seva-Yoga announcement. “When you really love someone, you want to help them in whatever way you can – you cook for them, you iron their clothes, you clean up after them, you are by their side ready to lend a helping hand in whatever they do. Such loving service softens the heart, creates memorable experiences, and builds relationships that last.
“At New Vrindaban, we are offering you the Seva-yoga program as a way to build a loving relationship with Krishna through service. Although Krishna is God, and He is completely self-satisfied, nevertheless, He is happy to receive your service. Just as parents are pleased when their children voluntarily help out around the house, Krishna is happy when we make even the slightest effort to please Him.
New Vrindaban temple president Jaya Krsna Das packs prasadam for distribution
“So, the next time you visit New Vrindaban, when you are checking in, mention that you would like to participate in the Seva-yoga program. You can sign up for one or more services in any one of our departments according to your taste. Of course, you don’t need to do anything, and we don’t really need you to do anything, but we want you to experience the bliss of serving Krishna.
"Service for Krishna is not ordinary work. It is on another level, and as you do it, that service will lift you up to a higher level. The satisfaction it gives to the heart and soul is something sublime and inexplicable. You really have to experience it for yourself.”
Sri Radha signs up for weekend Seva-Yoga opportunities
The Seva-Yoga program also ties in with Srila Prabhupada’s vision for New Vrindaban, gleaned from his letters and instructions, as a sacred place known worldwide for five primary things: cow protection, self-sufficiency, holy pilgrimage, spiritual education, and above all, loving Krishna. The latter three are particularly fulfilled when engaging pilgrims in service, according to temple president Jaya Krsna Das. “They are getting engaged, they’re getting purified, they’re connecting, and they’re associating with devotees,” he says.
Future plans for the program include a convenient online system so that guests can sign up for Seva-Yoga at newvrindaban.com while booking their stay.
“It's so sweet to be able to serve,” says Lodge Manager Sarah. “It’s so sweet to leave the prasadam line knowing you served all of the devotees. It’s so sweet to leave the kitchen knowing you participated in feeding all of the devotees; or the Deity kitchen knowing that you just cleaned up all of the pots used to prepare Krishna’s food.
“They’re all very nice ways to remember Krishna and to cultivate love for Him. And Krishna is so loving and reciprocating. Any act of service that gets offered gets reciprocated tenfold – and Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra here seem to do that almost instantaneously, and with such generosity.”
by Madhava Smullen. Originally published May 17, 2021 on the ISKCON News website at https://iskconnews.org/seva-yoga-program-at-new-vrindaban-builds-relationship-with-krishna-through-service,7798/ and used with permission.