SP_NV_1969

Srila Prabhupada visited New Vrindaban four times. One of the significant sites of his pastimes is the house in Madhavan where he resided during his last visit in 1976.

The house in Madhavan (where Sankirtan Prabhu now lives) is the site of the last darshan Srila Prabhupada gave to the New Vrindaban plow department. Darshans were scheduled according to department, and I was a member of the plow department. The last darshan is very exceptional because Srila Prabhupada was commenting spontaneously as Pradyumna, his Sanskrit translator, read and translated from Srimad Bhagavatam.

When devotees arrived for darshan, Srila Prabhupada did not come out of his room. Pradyumna told the devotees that Srila Prabhupada was not feeling well. We waited for some time, and then thinking that our presence might be an imposition we began walking down the driveway away from the house in a very downhearted spirit.

Seeing this, Srila Prabhupada told Pradyumna, “Call them back.”

We returned and Srila Prabhupada came out of his room. He was clearly not feeling well. He wasn’t speaking. Knowing Srimad Bhagavatam to be the ultimate remedy for his illness, he requested Pradyumna, “Read from the 12th Canto.”

 

Pradyumna began reading “Symptoms of Kali-yuga.” At first, Srila Prabhupada did not comment; he just listened. He perked up, however, when he heard the verse stating that in Kali-yuga, “Beauty will be considered to be related to the length of one’s hair.”

Srila Prabhupada said, “Just see, Srila Vyasadeva is trikalagya (one who can see past, present, and future). He has not seen any hippies yet and still he predicted they would come!”

Srila Prabhupada became even more animated by the verse that says that in Kali-yuga people will abandon all Vedic rites and rituals except for one – they will continue to go to distant places to take bath in a holy river. This phenomenon had been prophesized by Lord Krishna near the end of Dwapara-yuga when Ganga Devi approached Him and requested to follow the example of Saraswati Devi who had already gone underground. Specifically, Ganga Devi was anxious that the people of Kali-yuga would cling to one principle of Vedic culture, taking bath in her holy waters for the sole purpose of depositing their sinful reactions, while neglecting the more substantial practices necessary for spiritual growth.

Hearing this verse from Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada really perked up. He said, “I have seen. Growing up in Calcutta on the bank of the Ganges. People leave the bank of the Ganges to travel to Haridwar to take bath in the same Ganges. They are not concerned with hearing from sadhus and just perform an external ritualistic bath.”

From that theme, Srila Prabhupada developed the conclusion that New Vrindaban is non-different from Bhauma Vrindaban. By the force of SrilaPrabhupada’s intense desire, Krishna’s homeland of Vraja had been successfully transplanted to the west.

Srila Prabhupada had been instilling that truth in us all along. The devotees in that darshan had already accepted that conclusion as our life’s inspiration. We all knew by heart Srila Prabhupada’s first instructions in 1968, “The hills may be renamed New Govardhana. And if there are lakes, name them Shyama-kunda and Radha-kunda.”

“Seven temples on seven hills” had been the mantra of the entire community ever since receiving the letter in which he had instructed, “But now, let us build at least seven temples. On seven hills we will build seven main temples as in the original Vrindavan: Govindaji, Gopinatha, Madana-Mohana, Shyamasundara, Radha-Ramana, Radha-Damodar, Gokulananand.”

Nonetheless, during that last darshan with us,Srila Prabhupada developed the conclusion that New Vrindaban is non-different from Bhauma Vrindaban.

Simply reading the transcript from that darshan, one is devoid of Srila Prabhupada’s physical body language as well as the other facilities and innuendos he used to bring the concept home. Thus, one might miss out on the full impact of what Srila Prabhupada was conveying. The devotees were feeling that all our sacrifices and ordeals were being perfectly acknowledged, appreciated, and reciprocated as Srila Prabhupada developed the message of his last darshan,

“This New Vrindaban is non-different from Bhauma Vrindavan. You don’t need to go to India, you have Sri Sri RadhaVrindavan Chandra here. Work together in a cooperative spirit to bring this vision into a manifest reality.

palace of gold

Where is the Dham? The Dham, like Krishna, is all-pervading. That is why we do not confine the Dham to a geographic location. The abode of the Lord, just like His flute song vibrating throughout all sound, reflects the all-pervading nature of the Lord which cannot be restricted to any specific location.

The more relevant question is: Where is the Dham manifest? Srila Prabhupada requested his disciples and followers in New Vrindaban to develop a replica of Vrindavan. His intention was not for us to produce just a physical copy, but a place infused with the Brijabasi spirit where our consciousness is transformed into the mood of Vrindavan.

The mellows of Vrindavan are very confidential, however, and they generally remain exclusively in Vraja. Simply excavating kundas, building temples, and renaming places according to their facsimiles in Vrindavan does not constitute a holy dhama.
One of the key ingredients to manifesting the Dham is the samadhi of the perfected Vaishnava. That samadhi is also called Yoga Pith, the place where the spiritual and material realms interact, mirroring Goloka Vrindavan here on earth. The Dham is decorated with samadhis of sadhus (ascetics) and acharyas (exemplary teacher).

Samadhi means “the perfected stage beyond the realm of illusion.”

It is the state of the soul who has achieved the final stage of yoga where the mind is fixed on the self; the stage at which one’s consciousness is absorbed in Krishna, His form, His holy name, and His pastimes.

When the soul in the state of samadhi departs from this material world, the bodily remains are a blessing to the earth. Therefore, the bodily remains are not burned or cast in the river. Instead, they are placed in bhu-samadhi which means “resting within the earth as a benediction.”

Via the medium of the bhu-samadhi, Krishna invites souls forever thereafter to honor His pure devotee, to cultivate a personal relationship with the pure devotee, and to assist him in his ongoing service in the spiritual world. This is our right of entry into that Supreme Abode – following in the footsteps of the pure devotee.

Why?

Because Krishna is more pleased when His pure devotees are honored than when He is worshiped. Lord Shiva instructs Parvati, “The highest form of worship is worship of Vishnu. Higher than that is thadhiya, worship of Vishnu’s belongings of which the Vaishnavas are foremost and including the belongings of Vaishnavas.”

Krishna knows that people will not continue in their worship of the departed Vaishnava if they do not experience a sense of reciprocation. Therefore, Krishna Himself maintains the spiritual purity of the remains of the pure devotee. Thus, the remains continue to manifest the divine influence – the bhava – of that pure soul.

The structure where we are now assembled has come to be known as “The Palace of Gold,” which is actually very appropriate because “golden” is the luster of bhakti. This Palace is also the first samadhi of Srila Prabhupada in the world and it contains some of his belongings – his drum, cane, and shoes.

When the great souls depart from this mortal realm, they leave behind their bhava for the benefit of the conditioned souls. One who follows in the footsteps of a great soul imbibes that bhava.

This bhava is the boat by which the conditioned soul may cross over the ocean of nescience as easily as stepping over the water in the hoofprint of a calf. More significantly, that bhava is also an impetus for vipralambaseva (service in a deep mood of separation from a beloved).

In 2006, the GBC designated the Palace as Srila Prabhupada’s smrti-samadhi due to the deep and significant remembrances of Srila Prabhupada in the Palace that the structure preserves, and the significance of Srila Prabhupada’s remains which are enshrined at the Palace.

Krishna Himself is preserving the spiritual potency of the Palace. Thus Krishna is inviting all souls to experience a tangible connection, an ongoing relationship in deepening guru-bhakti with Srila Prabhupada. This is how Krishna activates, preserves, and increases our worship of Srila Prabhupada.

Srila-Prabhupada-New-Vrindaban-1969-2

“These Devotees are My Jewels”

oṁajñāna-timirāndhasya
jñānāñjana-śalākayā
cakṣurunmīlitaṁyena
tasmaiśrī-guravenamaḥ

I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge. I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.With the torchlight of knowledge, Srila Prabhupada revealed to my darkened eyes the vision of the Maha-bhagavat (liberated devotee).

When Srila Prabhupada came to New Vrindaban in 1974, he visited the beginning foundations of the residence we were constructing for him. This residence eventually came to be known as “The Palace of Gold” and is also his first samadhi.

During that visit in 1974, Srila Prabhupada gave specific instructions regarding how the Palace was to be illuminated. As he circumambulated the portico, he tapped on a wall and said, “Make a window here.”

One devotee responded, “But that is concrete, Srila Prabhupada.”

Undeterred, Srila Prabhupada reiterated, “Make a window here.”

Another devotee offered, “We are going to have artificial lighting. There is no need for windows.”

Prabhupada replied, “Make a window here. No artificial . . . natural light.”

Prabhupada walked another fifteen feet. He stopped and tapped his cane on the wall again. “And a window here. Fifteen feet later. “And a window here.”

He circumambulated the portico and marked every place where he wanted a window for natural lighting.

The devotees become a little apprehensive, however, when Srila Prabhupada entered the temple room – an interior room without any windows. In an attempt to be proactive, Bali Mardana Maharaja volunteered that in this room the lighting would be provided by jewels inlaid in the columns, just like in Krishna’s palaces in Dwaraka.

This was the setting for the real jewel of the Maha-bhagavata’s humility to shine forth into the hearts of all who were present. Although we as conditioned souls came under the influence of Kali-yuga and had a tendency to quarrel with one another, in that moment we were allowed a glimpse through Srila Prabhupada’s eyes which are illuminated with the torchlight of knowledge and anointed with the salve of love.

Srila Prabhupada raised his cane. Sweeping it across the room in an arch-like motion which sheltered all the devotees, he repeated gloriously as he had done in 1974, “These devotees are my jewels!sp walking on farm

During the last year he was with us, Srila Prabhupada was preparing us for his departure. Our desire all along had been to complete the Palace and for Srila Prabhupada to stay there. That last year, however, it was becoming evident that it would not be completed in time. We continued our services nonetheless, with faith that all our sacrifices and ordeals were being perfectly acknowledged, appreciated, and reciprocated.

During Srila Prabhupada’s visit to New Vrindaban in 1974, he told the devotees while visiting the Palace, “I am already living here and always will be.”

This statement affirmed the feeling already established and continually growing in the hearts of the New Vrindaban devotees. That feeling was that because of Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes at and visits to the Palace over the years, it was already infused with his potency.

This principle has been further enriched by the reciprocation the devotees have experienced with him ever since his departure. Our own perception of the spiritual potency of the Palace is related to our faith in Srila Prabhupada. After Srila Prabhupada’s ascension into the spiritual sky, he continues to reside in his samadhi in a spiritual form resembling that in which he walked and talked with us on earth. That presence facilitates our remembrance and meditation on him by which we are still in the shelter of his association. This is called smriti and is the essence of the potency contained in the smriti-samadhi.

A smriti-samadhi is where the remembrance of the acharya is enshrined. The Palace excels in this aspect.

The acharya’s potency lingers in the thadiya (belongings) he leaves behind following his departure from the mortal realm. This includes Srila Prabhupada’s drum, cane, shoes, and spoon, all of which are housed at the Palace. There is a gradation of spiritual potency emanating from different forms of thadiya in samadhis. The spiritual potency of the thadiya is related to various factors including the importance of that object to the acharya, as well as the amount of contact between the object and the acharya. Thus, the accumulated potency of Srila Prabhupada’s drum, cane, shoes, and spoon exceeds that of a flower that was offered only once.

tompsonsqpark sm

On October 9, 1966, Srila Prabhupada walked eight blocks from his first ISKCON temple at 26 Second Avenue to Tompkins Square Park in New York City. Half a dozen disciples accompanied him.

Brahmananda Prabhu carried the harmonium and bongo drum. Srila Prabhupada first chanted different Sanskrit prayers which his disciples did not know, but relished hearing, and then Srila Prabhupada started the maha-mantra. That kirtan inaugurated Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement in the west. This truth is inscribed on a plaque which is now installed in Tompkins Square Park.

The bongo drum is now enshrined in Srila Prabhupada’s Palace which is his smrti-samadhi. A smrti-samadhi is where the remembrance of the acharya is enshrined and where his spiritual potency lingers in the thadiya (belongings) he leaves behind following his departure from the mortal realm. The potency of this drum is unfathomable.

One who follows in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada imbibes his potency. Brahmanada Prabhu exemplified this truth. Brahmananda Prabhu was a genuine “Prabhupada Man,” meaning that he had given himself to Srila Prabhupada in mind, body, and words. Srila Prabhupada said to his early followers that his Guru Maharaja had sent them to assist him, and our Guru Maharaja who had such big plans for the whole world was truly assisted by an exceptional assembly of sincere and devoted souls who appeared to have had a relationship that was already established in a previous life and is sure to continue in the next.

A few years ago, the bongo drum lead a kirtan procession from the Palace down to Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s temple to inaugurate a 24-hour kirtan festival. Three of us – Radhanath Swami, Rameshwar Prabhu, and myself – locked arms and carried the drum while the kirtan resounded and the devotees danced all around us and the drum.

The kirtan surrounding us was clearly influenced by the potency of the drum in a most tangible way. The rhythms of the mrdangas blended with the melodies of the mantra, and their combined effect transported us beyond the confines of time and space, awarding a substantive experience of the early kirtans in Tompkins Square Park. This experience reflected the inauguration of the sankirtan movement in Navadvip dham by Lord Caitanya. The devotees who had congregated in New Vrindaban from all over would soon leave to continue extending the holy name to every town and village, giving life to the words of Srila Vrindavan das Thakur, “Those who are fortunate can perceive Lord Caitanya’s pastimes transpiring even today.”

I have heard that Brahmananda Prabhu visited the Palace some years ago, and upon seeing the bongo drum, his remembrance of that historic kirtan in Tompkins Square Park was awakened and he exclaimed, “That’s the drum that made us dance!”

This is the essence of the smrti-samadhi and its spiritual potency is available to everyone.

The bongo drum which is enshrined in Srila Prabhupada’s smrti-samadhi, the Palace of Gold, holds a spiritual potency that is unlimited and unparalleled. The drum holds the potency of Srila Prabhupada, the inauguration of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement in the west, and the pioneer era of ISKCON. That potency is available for all sincere souls who follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada, his disciples, and his followers.

sp jaladuta II

When Srila Prabhupada was on his departure bed in Vrindavan, India, in 1977, he assured his young disciples, “I will never die. I will live forever in my books.” The Palace of Gold, which is Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi, enshrines one of the original volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam written in India by Srila Prabhupada on the order of his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada is fully present in this book and available to all who follow in his footsteps.

Srila Prabhupada exemplified this truth when he wrote to one of his disciples on December 27, 1974, “Vaisnava is never alone. When I first came to the United States I was seemingly alone for one year. But I never felt alone. I always felt the presence of my Guru Maharaja. Myself, I was cooking, I was printing books, I was selling books, everything seemingly alone. But I did not lose my determination. Actually, you should know this, you are never alone.”

Srila Prabhupada first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, in Calcutta in 1922. At that first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati instructed Srila Prabhupada to distribute the ancient Vedic spiritual knowledge of India throughout the English-speaking world. He accepted his spiritual master’s instruction deep within his heart. Later in 1933, on the bank of Radha Kunda, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati instructed Srila Prabhupada, “If you ever get money, print books.”

Accepting his spiritual master’s instruction deep within his heart, Srila Prabhupada spent the next three decades preparing to make the treacherous journey to the west. In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, he retired from family life and several years later he moved to Vrindavan. There Srila Prabhupada began his life’s work – an English version of the Srimad Bhagavatam, complete with word-for-word translations and elaborate purports.

In 1965, Srila Prabhupada’s complete, three-volume set of the First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam was printed and ready for distribution. He considered this sufficient scriptural support to make the journey to America. Never before had a pure devotee of Krsna left Vrindavan to cross the ocean, venturing to foreign lands of fearful, agitated men. The American population was completely unfamiliar with the divine message Srila Prabhupada carried.

On August 13, 1965, Srila Prabhupada boarded the Jaladuta, or the “Messenger from the Waters.”Srila Prabhupada traveled with only an umbrella; a suitcase; forty rupees (which he was unable to change into dollars); and his most treasured possession which he would read during the voyage, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.

August 21, 1965, the Jaladuta arrived in Cochin, South India. The trunks containing Srila Prabhupada’s two hundred three-volume sets of Srimad Bhagavatam, which had been shipped from Calcutta, were loaded on board and stored in the hold of the Jaladuta. After the many years of Srila Prabhupada’s painstaking labor, the goddess of devotion, Bhakti Devi, was now being transported from Vrindavan to the U.S., tucked safely within the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam as the hundreds of volumes rested in the small, dark hold of the weather-beaten cargo ship. The Jaladuta now served as a literary temple enshrining Bhakti Devi and the Srimad Bhagavatam, the literary incarnation of the Supreme Lord, as it carried them to the west. This was Srila Prabhupada’s loving offering at the lotus feet of his spiritual master and the previous acharyas. One volume of this original Bhagavatam is now enshrined in the Palace of Gold which is Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi.

Srila Prabhupada said in a lecture on August 18, 1968, “So we should associate by the vibration, and not by the physical presence. That is real association.” When the acharyas depart from this mortal realm, they leave behind their spiritual vibration in their books. Krsna Himself maintains the spiritual purity of these books and all those who follow in the footsteps of the great souls will experience a tangible connection, an ongoing relationship with the acharyas.

sp palace of Gold

The Palace of Gold is the first samadhi of Srila Prabhupada in the world, although originally it was not intended to be his samadhi. The devotees had intended to construct a simple residence in a peaceful, undisturbed environment where Srila Prabhupada could fulfill his life goal of translating and commenting on the entire Srimad Bhagavatam. As time went on, however, the residence became more ornate and came to be known as “The Palace of Gold,” which is very appropriate because golden is the luster of bhakti.

During the last year he was with us, Srila Prabhupada was preparing us for his departure. As we processed the inevitable upcoming experience, we continued with the activities which we knew would please him – pujari services, agricultural services, animal husbandry, and construction of his Palace of Gold.

Our desire all along had been to complete the Palace and for Srila Prabhupada to stay there. That last year, however, it was becoming evident that it would not be completed in time. We continued our services nonetheless with faith that all our sacrifices and ordeals were being perfectly acknowledged, appreciated, and reciprocated. We continued with faith that the purpose of the Palace would be revealed and that the outcome would be appropriate.

I was working in the fields at Bahulavan – putting in winter wheat with the assistance of oxen and draft horses – when word arrived that Srila Prabhupada had departed. When I came in for lunch, the devotees told me the news.

Confronted with this tragedy, I immediately lost my appetite. I wondered to myself,“What is the purpose of living?” Bereft of Srila Prabhupada’s mortal presence, I was plagued with the darkness of how Icould go on without physical interactions with my best friend, guide, Guru, shaktyi avesha avatar, Nityananda avesh, who had walked and talked with us within these very walls and in the surrounding meadows and fields of New Vrindaban.

At the same time, I also had faith that the purpose of everything – specifically the purpose of building the Palace – would be revealed.

The temple leadership announced that there would be a ceremony that evening at the Palace. There, we turned to the only shelter we knew through Srila Prabhupada’s teachings—the Holy Name. At around 6:30 PM, we began kirtan, chanting to a picture of Srila Prabhupada where his murti now sits. The invocation mantras glorifying Srila Prabhupada, followed by the Pancha Tattva mantra, leading to the Hare Krishna kirtan stirred the deepest emotions from the hearts of the devotees. As the kirtan continued all night, the emotions deepened even further.

We all were crying and faltering, and the devotees were literally holding one another up. We were so weak, not so much physically but emotionally. How can we go on without Srila Prabhupada?

The mood of separation had deepened beyond anything we had experienced or imagined. That vipralamba (deep feelings of separation from a beloved) intensified to the degree that we too wanted to give up our lives and follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada to that stage of unconditional absorption in Krishna. This was something we had only heard of and read about among the associates of Lord Gauranga who, in separation from the Great Dancer, wanted to smash their heads against the rocks or enter into the fire.

When Srila Prabhupada departed this world, we innocently thought that his final lesson was how to depart this world with dignity and grace; and for all those who would follow his footsteps and take up his instructions, there was the additional lesson of how to enter into the state of samadhi and return home, back to godhead. What we did not yet know was that there was still another lesson, one even more confidential and sublime, yet to come.

palace at night

“After receiving news of Srila Prabhupada’s departure from this mortal realm, the New Vrindaban devotees gathered together at his Palace. It was dark outside and there were no lights installed inside the Palace at that time. It was the darkest night for the devotees who were now bereft of Srila Prabhupada’s mortal form and knew not where to turn.

On that night, the devotees strung strands of Christmas lights from the tops of the Palace domes creating an outline of silver light.

We chanted in kirtan together all night until the mood of separation intensified beyond anything we had experienced or imagined. We were ready to give up our lives and follow Srila Prabhupada.

At around 3:00 in the morning just before the pujaris had to depart to wake the Deities, suddenly, inexplicably, the whole current of rasa shifted and came from the opposite direction. In an instant we were transported, as if born aloft on a tide of perennial joy. The devotees could not contain their ecstasy as they danced in jubilation throughout the night.

As the first rays of the rising sun began appearing on the eastern horizon and the devotees began moving on to their various services, they were asking one another in confidence, “Did you experience that?”

The experience had been unanimous.

“But what was it?” We were perplexed. It was not only inexplicable, it seemed inconsistent due to our immature understanding. Wasn’t this the most disheartening event we had ever encountered?

Yet everyone, including those who had spent significant amounts of time in Srila Prabhupada’s physical presence over many years, all unanimously agreed on another point: We had never felt so close to Srila Prabhupada before.

This is Srila Prabhupada’s final lesson. His final lesson is that the deepest sacrament of the Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta is service in separation, a relationship which never ends. This internal realization was awakened by His Divine Grace in his disciples and followers, and it was experienced most tangibly in his Palace of Gold which is now his samadhi.

Service in separation is Srila Prabhupada’s ultimate gift to the world. This gift includes and excels everything. It awards association with Krishna and all His servants in that eternal world where death has no access and darkness cannot enter.

Krishna preserves Srila Prabhupada’s presence in his samadhi to the extent that everyone has an opportunity to cultivate a relationship with Srila Prabhupada and to assist him in his service in Goloka Vrindavan. That Supreme Abode is now reflected in the hills of Appalachia as New Vrindaban Dhama, and the crest jewel of New Vrindaban is Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi which is appropriately known as as “The Palace of Gold.” ”

sp-greets-rvc-1972

“In 1972, Srila Prabhupada graced New Vrindaban with his personal presence on Janmastami and Vyasa-puja. During that visit, Srila Prabhupada presided over the installation of Radha Vrindaban Chandra in Bahulaban. This was the first temple room that had been built exclusively for Them.

With the Deities properly situated in a worthy place of worship, the devotees’ surging enthusiasm, abilities, inspiration, and population naturally turned to the next phase of Srila Prabhupada’s primary mandates – the seven temples. “Seven temples on seven hills” had been the mantra of the entire community ever since receiving the letter in which he had instructed,

“On seven hills we will build seven main temples as in the original Vrindavan: Govindaji, Gopinatha, Madana-Mohana, Shyamasundara, Radha-Ramana, Radha-Damodar, Gokulananand.”

The community had a clear and coherent plan for manifesting Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to build “seven temples on seven hills.” In the early days of New Vrindaban there were three “villages” where devotees lived: Madhuban, Bahulaban, and Old Vrindaban. Each had its own center of worship, making it very convenient for the residents to serve and worship the Deities. We expected to build one temple in each of these three villages; and as the community grew and new villages were founded, each new community would become the site of one of the remaining temples.

The first of the seven temples was to have been Govindaji Mandir in Bahulaban. Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s temple, an addition built onto an old farmhouse in the bottom of the valley, could not be counted amongst the seven temples of Srila Prabhupada’s vision.

Simultaneous to the plan for seven temples on seven hills, another inspiration evolved. This inspiration did not arise from Srila Prabhupada’s explicit instruction, but rather from within the hearts of the devotees who were beginning to assimilate Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in regards to the worship and service of Sri Guru. The devotees desired to construct a simple residence in a peaceful, undisturbed environment where Srila Prabhupada could fulfill his life goal of translating and commenting on the entire Srimad Bhagavatam.”

palace construction

“Excavation for Govindaji Mandir began in the spring of 1973. New Vrindaban hired Bob Black, a local farmer who owned a backhoe, to excavate the footer for Govindaji Mandir. I assisted Bob by providing transit work (leveling the ground) while he excavated. Our efforts were not very successful, however, because the machine was not adequate to break through the rock.

When I informed Kirtanananda Swami about the complication with the rock he replied, “When Indra wants to break up rock mountain tops, he sends his thunderbolts.” I remembered having read that, but I didn’t see how it would apply in this situation.

The episode with the rock helped provide the shift in the community’s focus from Govindaji Mandir to Srila Prabhupada’s Palace. The complication with the excavation of the footer for Govindaji Mandir put the temple construction project on hold. This provided the opportunity to excavate the footer for Srila Prabhupada’s Palace, which went smoothly and the devotee construction crew set up its batter boards (stakes and strings used to establish the grade and elevation to pour a concrete footer).

After excavating the footer at the Palace, I went back to farming. One day, I was plowing the fields at Bahulavan across the road from Govindaji Hill, preparing the ground to plant corn. I was pushing to finish plowing the field when dark rain clouds started moving in from the west and a cool breeze began to blow, making it clear that it was about to rain.

It was hot and the horses were sweating profusely. When horses are that hot, they can’t be out in the rain or they’ll get sick. Therefore, I pushed right up to the final minute and then unhooked the plow and put the horses in the barn just as the rain began.

The rain quickly turned into a severe thunderstorm. The downpour was so heavy that I chose to sleep in the manger in the horse barn that night rather than walk through the storm back to the ashram.

I couldn’t sleep because the thunder was blasting all night. The window outside the manger opened in the direction of Govindaji Hill and I observed something all through the night that I had never seen before. Lightning kept striking at normal intervals, twelve to fifteen times, all through the night. Every single time, it hit the exact same place –the excavation site of the temple on top of Govindaji Hill.

For the next few days, the footer of Govindaji Mandir was filled with water, delaying the excavation even longer. Meanwhile, construction proceeded at the Palace.

A few days later, after the water had drained out of the footer, Bob and I went back up to Govindaji Hill and continued the footer exaction. To our surprise and delight, the rock broke out easily this time. I cannot say definitely that it was because of the lightning because standing water will also loosen layered rock.

The excavation for the footer of Govindaji Mandir was completed in time so that the community was able to conduct two simultaneous installation ceremonies. There was a grand installation ceremony in Bahulaban for the cornerstone of Govindaji Mandir, the first of the seven temples that Srila Prabhupada had envisioned in New Vrindaban. There was another cornerstone ceremony for Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold.

Ananta Sesa, the personification of the support system for the universe, was installed in the cornerstone of both footers simultaneously. This was the last step that was taken in the construction of Govindaji Mandir and for Srila Prabhupada’s vision for “seven temples on seven hills” for the next thirty years.”

Radha Gopinatha temple

“After being installed in both cornerstones, no progress was made in the construction of the Govindaji Mandir. The Govindaji Mandir project was abandoned and Ananta Sesa was continually re-located for the next three decades.

When construction began in New Vrindaban for the Temple of Understanding in 1988, I dug up Ananta Sesa in Bahulaban and relocated the Deity to a cornerstone at the new temple site in another official ceremony. I placed the Deity in a silver box, then placed that inside a steel box which was encased by the concrete blocks of the cornerstone.

The Temple of Understanding project was also abandoned, so I removed Ananta Sesa from the foundation yet again and hid Him in the woods. As portions of properties were sold and boundary lines kept shifting, I continually moved Ananta Sesa to other safe locations.

After I secured a tract of land, I named it Govardhana Hill in accordance with Srila Prabhupada’s first instructions for New Vrindaban in 1968: “The hills may be renamed New Govardhana. And if there are lakes, name them Shyama-kunda and Radha-kunda.” I decided Govardhana Hill was the safest place to house Ananta Sesa, and so I brought the Deity here, still in His secure, warm, stone box.

A few years later while giving a lecture at Govardhana on a busy festival day during Kartik, I saw the cornerstone on its side. The concrete had worn thin, the steel box had rusted through, and the inner silver box had sprung open. Inside, there was Ananta Sesa looking out upon everyone!

At this moment, Srila Prabhupada’s 1972 instruction regarding the seven temples of Vrindavan here in New Vrindaban resounded in my heart: “Begin immediately with whatever facilities you have.”
I felt that after forty years, it was beyond the time to follow this instruction. No more delays or excuses would be considered!
In 2011, to commence the construction of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Mandir at Govardhana, I performed a secret ceremony. This same Ananta Sesa who is the foundation for all creation,and who had migrated from various parts of New Vrindaban before finally resting here at Radha Gopinatha Mandir, was installed in the northeast cornerstone.

This particular temple is meant to give a residence to the most merciful Trinity, Sri Sri Radha Gopinath and Ananga Manjari, while at the same time fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s wish for Vraja architecture to provide a holistic experience and awaken our hearts to the mellows of Vraja bhakti.

Therefore I have constructed the Radha Gopinatha Mandir as a replica of one of the original temples in Vrindavan, further imbibing the mood of Sri Vrindavan Dhama here in New Vrindaban.

Srila Prabhupada’s Palace, which is his samadhi mandir, is complemented by Radha Gopinath Mandir inasmuch as vapu and vani constitute the dynamics which nourish the inseparable development of guru bhakti and Krsna kirtan.

The slogan of New Vrindaban’s pioneers – the mantra of the Brijabasi Spirit, “Seven temples on seven hills” – is bearing fruit as Radha Gopinath Mandir, the first mandir of the Six Goswamis’ worship, rises to complement the landscape of Srila Prabhupada’s Palace grounds.”