By Madhava Smullen
With temples all over the world dealing with the effects of COVID-19, ISKCON’s first farm community – New Vrindaban in West Virginia – has scaled down to core personnel and closed its doors to the public.
A much larger operation than many city temples, New Vrindaban has 2,200 acres, has been established as a foremost place of pilgrimage in North America, and welcomes 35,000 visitors per year with a 5% annual increase.
This also means a large staff to keep everything going. “At the start of the outbreak, we had sixty plus people doing various services, and would have had more than 100 engaged full-time by the peak of the summer season,” says communications director Anuradha Dasi. “Unfortunately, now we can only keep on pujaris and preachers full-time. We have twelve pujaris maintaining the worship of our many Deities. All other departments – accounting, communications, HR, purchasing, administration, etc – have been reduced to just a few hours a day.”
With a stay-at-home order issued in West Virginia, ISKCON New Vrindaban has closed down Prabhupada’s Palace, the Palace Lodge, and Govinda’s restaurant, losing half its income in the process.
“In order to survive, we’re having to rely on donations from longtime friends of New Vrindaban,” says Anuradha.
The community has also had to cancel all its events, including Sacinandana Swami’s Living Name Retreat, Festival of Inspiration, several major weddings, and many spring seminars designed to fulfill Srila Prabhupada instruction for New Vrindaban to become a center for spiritual education.