The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva Prabhu
Part III: New Vrindaban, 1968-1969
Seven Temples on Seven Hills
The Montreal temple is located in a large, grey Gothic building near McGill University. The ground floor is occupied by a commercial printing company. The upstairs bowling alley has been converted into a kirtan hall and living area for new devotees—Shivananda, Jayapataka, Hansadutta, Vaikunthanath. Now it is crowded. There has been a flurry of activity since Prabhupada’s arrival.
Kirtanananda and I visit Prabhupada in his nearby apartment. As always, it seems, Prabhupada is seated behind his footlocker, the familiar aromas of gardenias, incense and sandalwood about him. Goursundar and Govinda dasi scurry about, fretting that too many people are disturbing him. We pay our obeisances, and I offer Prabhupada yellow roses, which Govinda dasi arranges in vases.
“So how have you come?” Prabhupada asks.
“By plane from New York,” I say.
“Ah, very good. And in New York they are doing nicely?”
“Yes, Srila Prabhupada. Very nicely.”
“And what about New Vrindaban? That is doing nicely?”
“The owner has finally agreed on a long term lease,” I say, “but he wants the timber.”
“Oh, that cannot be. We must have all rights.”
“The coal rights were sold sixty-five years ago,” Kirtanananda says. “This is the case with all the properties in that area.”
“This means that if the government develops the coal industry, we may be asked to vacate,” Prabhupada says, concerned. “And no law can stop it.”
We admit that this is a point to consider.
“Yes,” he continues, “even if the government does not interfere, if some big industry moves into our vicinity, our New Vrindaban will fade away.”
I suddenly envision the little farmhouse and willow tree enveloped in a haze of smoke, the pastures invaded by steel drills abusing Mother Earth, giant smokestacks….
“New Vrindaban must be free from industrial contamination,” he says. “Industries like mining will ruin everything. Consider well the land’s future.”
“Most of the coal has already been mined through underground tunnels,” Kirtanananda says.
“Another important point,” Prabhupada goes on. “What happens to the property after ninety-nine years?”
I don’t know,” I say, not having really thought of this. “We won’t be around then.”
“But the Society will,” he says. “There must be an agreement that at the end of the lease, the property will go to us.”
This had been our oversight. Of course it must go to the Society! Great temples will be rising from the blackberries and pokeweed!
“We’ll try to get Foster to agree,” I say.
We then describe the property. As soon as Prabhupada understands where the main road is, he asks, “How do you get up to the farmhouse?”
“Well, that’s the big problem,” I admit. “It’s not really what you’d call easily accessible. But you could drive a jeep or horse and wagon up it. Otherwise, it’s a two mile walk.”
Prabhupada reflects on this a moment.
“Hm. Horse and buggy would be better,” he says at length. “You should avoid machines and become as self-sufficient as possible. And horses are pleasing to look at. They are the most beautiful of animals.”
Kirtanananda presents a quart of blackberry chutney and one of raspberry jam.