Why build an Eco Village?
Eco Villages are the heart of Vedic Culture. The heart of the culture is based on land, cows and our service to Krishna, specifically through the natural activities of farming and agriculture, which can only be done properly and effectively when there are cows and bulls.
At Saranagati Village, it is only recently that devotees have acquired cows and built a Goshala. Saranagati Village is very large and there is a need to have cows in different areas. The Vedic norm is that most families have their own cows. The project we are introducing is facilitating the expansion of the existing efforts at Saranagati Village and will add the opportunity to introduce traditional Vedic education. An Eco Village is based on concepts and talks of Srila Prabhupadada about Gurukulas and Varnasarama College. Unfortunately, although spoken about by Srila Prabhupadada, both are practically non-existence in ISKCON society
The proposed of the Vedic Eco Village is to further complement, not duplicate or compete with existing facilities and services and on-going activities at Saranagati.
What is the difference between the Gurukula and Govardhana Academy (the existing school at Saranagati Village) ?
Govardhana Academy is a day school affiliated with the standard, modern, educational system. A special characteristic is that the students are fortunate to receive academic as well as Vaishnava education and training. The students have Vaishnava association and Vaishnava teachers. So it is a combination of traditional education and modern day curriculum that is the norm in most countries of the world.
The Gurukula is a traditional system where students being in a boarding/residential facility where students live with the teachers. It is based on long standing established curriculum referred to as the 14 standard books of knowledge. Srila Prabhupadada spoke extensively of the need and importance of a Gurukula. We attempted to establish such a Gurukula in the early days of ISCKON, but met up with obstacles and eventually failures. However, this should not deter us from trying to introduce what Srila Prabhupadada desired. Thus our attempts at the Gurukula is to establish the traditional education
Is the Gurukula in competition with the Govardhana Academy?
The gurukula is not meant to compete with Govardhana Academy. In a Gurukula there are few students, who are accepted if parents desire that their children get such an education, and if the student is willing. Finally the decision is solely at the discretion of the Gurukula master.
When will the Gurukula begin operations?
It will take time for the basic infrastructure to be established. It will likely take a year before the basic facilities are an in place and find teachers available.This will allow us time to give more information and meet with prospective family, so there is a more clear understanding of the Gurukula. This will give an opportunity to address any concerns.
This year (2017) we hope to introduce the Varnasarama College and introduce courses (found on this website) and prepare individuals who later on can help with the establishment of the Gurukula.
Why are girls not allowed to attend the Gurukula?
Gurukula is a an educational system traditionally for boys, teaching about the different Varnas (ie. brahman, ksatrias, vaisyas) which are primarily for men. There is a different kind of eduction for girls, given by Vaishnavis in a particular community.
Vedic culture does not promote co-eduction (mixing boys and girls in education). Education has traditionally been separate. It is part of Vedic culture to segregate men and women. This way our culture differs from modern culture, in that we stand by very basic well defined principles. We encourage members of Saranagati Village to develop specific educational systems for girls - there are directions in our Sastra for this. For example Srimati Radharani is proficient in the 64 arts and sciences, which is a large curriculum which should be introduced. Some devotees in India are created books about this, which can be adapted to our present situation at Saranagati Village. In Vedic culture, education is for one an all and eduction is meant to be for one's entire life. Life is education and education is life.
Who will be the teachers of the Gurukula?
We will have 2 kinds of teachers, one is Ashram teacher, the other an academic teacher. We have not yet selected teachers. Ideally the teachers will reside in the Gurukula. However in our current situation, teachers may come to share their particular expertise on a daily or weekly basic. We will have a mixture of residential and visiting teachers. The only residential teacher will be Bhakti Raghava Swami, understanding the initial focus in to build the infrastructure in the year before the Gurukula is ready to fully operate. In that time, we hope to better advertise this project to devotees in greater ISCON. We will be looking for devotees who have teaching experience and recent graduates of Mayapur Gurukula or those who have received this type of training. There are devotees in Saranagati Village who have very valuable knowledge and expertise, for examples local teachers, farmers and gopas who are involved with land and cow care. There are devotees with other kinds of experience. Another area will be teaching different skills like carpentry, forestry - these are less brahminical, although the primary focus will be on brahminical education.
There is also a need to open communication with the existing Govardhana Academy to see which areas there can be co-operation and assistance and exchange to promote the over-all aspect of Vedic education. There is a good possibility of having joint programs and ventures as the Gurukula gradually established itself and developing.
Why build a new Goshala when there is already one in Saranagati Village?
The Vedic norm is that every family should have a Goshala, at least every family should care for at least one cow. Because Saranagati Village is spread out over 1600 acres (10 km), it is not practical to have only one Goshala. Saranagati Village is ideal to have many smaller communities within the larger community. Within each community, more naturally and geographically, there should be localize cows that serve each community.
The plan for a Goshala in the Vedic Eco Village should be seen as complimentary to the existing Goshala, and an additional asset to the entire Saranagati Village project. In the Vedic culture, householders are meant to care for cows daily. As Krishna shows by his personal example, householders are meant to worship cows on a daily basis, so we are trying to reach this high standard. Another Goshala brings us closer to a what a Vedic Village is meant to be, and the cow culture will become part of our life.
From cow culture, a cow economy emerges which is the basic os Vedic economics as taught in our literatures. We will be gradually be introducing cow products, with the idea of encouraging devotees to use this products to reduce harmful chemically produced products such as soap, toothpaste and detergents that are harmful to the body and soil. More and more devotees are producing such products and we will feature some of these on our website and gradually the production of such products will be part of the Gurukula curriculum. This can only happen if we have more cows.
Why build a new mandir when one already exists in Saranagati Village?
There is a nice explanation given by Srila Prabhupada in the context of another large community Hyderbad farm, which covered 700 acres of land. It is recorded that Srila Prabhupada instructed residence of New Naimisaranya, Srila Prabhupada indicated that devotees should live in groups of 6 to 10 families in difference locations, and each form a small community with each having their own temple and deities. Srila Prabhupada instructed the same for New Vrindavan, which has yet to be realized. There is no contradiction or problem with having small temples in different parts of the valley that will facilitate devotees to attend nearby by daily programs. The new temple will not diminish the importance of the existing devotees which give the opportunity for devotees to meet weekly. smaller temples allows devotees to congregate on a daily basis and they can attend the weekly meeting at the main temple. Many temples can co-exist in this way. More prashad, more dasham, more devotion, more kirtan....
Can Saranagati Village residence visit the Eco Village?
Not only are the residence of Saranagati Village invited to visit, but we humbly request they are involved in whatever way they feel inclined. The Eco Village is meant to enhance and support the existing work and service that has been done over the years. We will begin some of our activities at this time and welcome even a short visit. We welcome the devotees participation.
We hope to have a pamphlet and presentation of the over view of the project to make it easier for devotees to understand the project and see where they fit in. We also welcome suggestions, ideas and comments from Saranagati Village residents. In our little way we are trying to add to the already to the already positive and attractive features of Saranagati Village so that more devotees may take notice of this important project and hopefully some devotees may want to be resident members of the community. More devotees will be an asset for developing the project. According to Vedic teachings, there should be a minimum of 100 families to make a village function properly. Village can exist will less number of families, but these guidelines suggest that is a higher level of support when there are large number of families living together and helping each other.
Also there will naturally be children born who will be future leaders of a Vedic Eco Village, where the majority of devotees will be nicely engaged locally, meeting their basic needs, provide for by the land and cows and devotional activities, as spoken in sastra. Our basic necessities are food, clothing, shelter and medicine - all exist in our valley waiting to be tapped.
We would like to hear feedback from devotees. We hope to create an electronic community forum (ie. email, messaging) for devotees to share thoughts and ideas, in addition to meeting in person and seminars.