May 26, 2013. Prabhupadanuga Farm in Fiji
SOUNDS OF NEW JAYAPUR
One fine, sunny morning this last week, I was marking small junk trees along the edge of the forest to be cut in the making of the new hillside pasture, when I stopped to listen to the sounds of the project that were resounding clearly across our tropical rainforest valley next to the seacoast:
1. There was the small chain saw, not far away, as Isaac cut the bush stumps at ground level for the new pasture,
2. And the tractor, as Bill was moving some timber over to the equipment shed, reminding me of when Srila Prabhupada came to New Talavan, the Mississippi farm, in 1975. We were on a walk around the second ISKCON farm project, and I had lined up all our farm machinery to show off to Srila Prabhupada. The two 70 foot Harvestore silos loomed overhead, and Prabhupada stopped in front of the machinery, maybe 15 different implements such as hay crimper, manure slinger, silage blower and sickle mower. Looking at the equipment shed nearby, the roof of which had been blown off months ago by a hurricane, Srila Prabhupada coldly asked me, “Why these machines are out in the rain?” With a stammering mind, I could only say, “Oh, we are still finishing repairs to the roof of the shed there,” as I pointed to the half finished structure. Srila Prabhupada turned away from me, and wryly smiled at Brahmananda Swami, telling a short story about the lady who was preparing for the fair with her clothes, makeup, but when she was finally ready, the fair was over. Similarly, Prabhupada explained, by the time the shed is finished, all our machinery would be rusted and ruined. We should take good care of what Krishna had kindly provided us…
3. Euston and Choni were nailing away on the shed roof, the sound of their hammers denoting progress in the construction of our Vedic village project. Just then,
4. Dinesh came growling with the track dumper out from the rock cut under the edge of the hill to deliver fill material to the riverbank. We were building up a low area behind the shed, where we were adding a section for the timber milling operation. Our 18 K watt Perkins diesel generator would be located here to power our table saw, dressing planer, and the welder, as the solar power at the ashram could not handle these heavy loads. It felt good to see our mini-industrial area manifesting separately and away from the village residential area up on the ridge.
5. Behind all this I picked up the dull, soft roar of the distant surf on the reef, perhaps 8 km out. Glancing over to the horizon, I could see a white line where the open ocean crashed upon the barrier reef, allowing for the ultra calm protected waters of Yanawai Bay in front. It was a soothing sound, but at the same time a reminder of the great forces of the ocean and Krishna’s material nature. Recently a yacht had been smashed up and over the reef's edge at night, leaving today only abouthalf the hull protruding at low tide.
6. George’s grasscutter was also whirring and zipping away below, as he trimmed the grass around the small rice field.
7. Fascinated at the various sounds of action, and standing motionless, I could hear as well the faint crackling of the burning vines and brush, piled in heaps, producing trails of white thin smoke, angling inland due to the mild sea breeze that was present.
8. Any other sounds? Yes, the machetes (locally called saylays) were chopping the brush, with the occasional metallic twang, as Jordan, Samu, Marika, and Matai cut and fed materials to the smoldering fires. It was not slash and burn- this hillside had been cleared of forest long ago, and in 60 some years of neglect had become completely covered with “the bush”…
9. And there was a hidden but nearby bird in the forest singing a pretty, simple tune. I looked around and above the forest canopy across the river, but did not see any swooping parrots with their characteristic blunt head profile and more of a soaring through the air than much quick flapping of their wings. However, the singing bird seemed absorbed in his own sound and probably did not notice all the other sounds- sort of like the karmis oblivious to all but their own fruitive goals...
Today we took the children to the garden. We picked the first French snap beans, mulched, weeded, transplanted some pak choy, replanted some more beans, and picked an eggplant. Later, near the ashram, we picked more eggplant, passion fruit, kumquats, and bele leaves. The kids wanted to swim in the river, so while they hooted and splashed, I did some citrus pruning with my hand cutters. The lower branches, dead branches, and branches that just were not proper in direction, causing internal congestion- had to go. Often, fruit trees need some help developing a good shape and structure- it is at least half art, the rest common sense. Also sometimes shoots will come up from below the graft line, and they usually have big thorns and need to be removed. A few citrus had been pushed over by a strong wind last year, and the roots had adjusted to this new position. These trees naturally began growing vertically again, and I reshaped them somewhat with pruning on one side.
NEW JAYAPUR’S PRABHUPADA MEMORABILIA
Last week we discussed in Bhagwatam class the the philosophy of “tadiya,” of Srila Prabhupada’s memorabilia- andwhy items connected to, touched by, or used by Srila Prabhupada have such great spiritual potency. The history of my Prabhupada memorabilia collection was reviewed, how I built up my collection, lost most of it, and then recovered it plus more. This collection is believed to be the largest on earth. Most was purchased from various devotees, such as Purudas who somehow privatized the New York temple Prabhupada Museum contents, and Sadhusangananda of Austria who served as Boston temple president. Through the years and the moves around the US mainland, to Hawaii, Panama, and finally Fiji, I never had the confidence of permanence of location to set up a museum room or preservation facility. Everything was packed up in plastic-wrapped boxes. But the Fiji ashram building design included what the workers called “the strong room,” a concrete space with a small window and one door, long bench type tables running down opposite walls.
After the swim, I brought the children into the museum for the practical field trip tour of Prabhupada’s memorabilia. They became absorbed for over an hour as we examined several hundred items, from old documents to clothing to mechanical and early version electronic book production machinery. There was the green rocking chair from Henry Street, Brooklyn temple used in 1972-4, and the aghan (knitted blankette) which draped the 1968 Montreal vyasasana (Prabhupada would sit on it). There was one of the early New York temple Panasonic reel-to-reel tape recorders with 20 or so of the 1966-7 tapes of lectures and kirtans. Hayagriva had sold these to Jitendriya, who transferred them to myself. There were two palm leaf scrolls (parts of Ramayana and Bhagwatam) in Telugu from South India, many centuries in age. Vinyl 45’s and 33’s of Prabhupada’s recordings were examined carefully, including several Happening albums (which I would listen to all day long as a new brahmachary devotee, Buffalo, NY, winter 1969-70), and which we decided to bring a copy upstairs to play later on our vinyl record player.
There was the framed 1951 letter from the Ford Foundation that declined Prabhupada’s solicitation to form an association of intelligent men who would guide the world in spiritual matters (…and 20 years later Alfred Ford became Prabhupada’s disciple). A framed ISKCON envelope bore two monetary figures and a doodled sketch of a toy top- in Prabhupada’s fountain pen handwriting. Mylar encased original Back to Godhead magazines, from the first through to No. 12 or so, were bound into protective books. An inexpensive small school notebook filled with Prabhupada’s 1950’s era handwritten notes and thoughts, expenses accounting and train tickets was very interesting (20 paisa for burfi!). The 1940’s sharesbook for Vimaltone Laboratories showed defaulted shares reverting back to Prabhupada due to non-payment of those shares…
The children studied Prabhupada’s tooth and its huge cavity. I told the story- Prabhupada was flying from LA to NYC in 1975, and mid-flight he simply took this tooth from his mouth and handed it to his guard Lalitanath das, who gave it to his brother Raksana das, and I acquired thereafter from Purudas. An actual part of the mahabhagawat, jagat guru’s spiritualized body- this would seem to be extra special, more so than the dhotis, sweaters, pillow cases, gloves, pillows, kurtas, and beadbags used by Srila Prabhupada (which were examined next). There was a pair of quite worn slippers from Prabhupada’s quarters in Los Angeles and a rather uncomfortable pair of beige canvas shoes acquired from Taruni dasi, Sruti Kirti Prabhu’s wife. But the 1950 Corona edition typewriter that Prabhupada used while living in Vrindaban was the highlight… testing the keys and trying to understand how it worked was extremely fascinating to the tour members!
Prabhupada’s last hairclippers are still in working condition. They were in Vrindaban since their last use in 1977 and until Hari Sauri sent them to Balavanta in 1998 for the investigative research into Prabhupada’s suspected poisoning. Hair was removed from between the clipper blades and tested for arsenic, which was unusually elevated and very suspicious. Balavanta never reclaimed the clippers from the laboratory. Years later I used the same laboratory for further testing on other hair samples by method of neutron activation analysis. At my request, the lab dismantled the hairclippers and found 2 or 3 pieces of Prabhupada’s hair, which was tested as well. Altogether, 4 or 5 differently sourced hair samples revealed substantial new evidence, but that’s another story for later too…. The lab sent me back my tested hair samples and they included the hairclippers too, as my good fortune would have it.
After we saw the small hair sample containers, we perused various paper documents, original edition Easy Journey to Other Planets, a Prabhupada autographed Gita, a handwritten essay titled “The Black Marketeers from Bhagavad Gita Point of View,” and other items of extreme transcendental significance. I detected that my audience was finally tiring and being children, after all, they were about done with their first tour of Srila Prabhupada’s Fiji Museum of Transcendental Memorabilia. We unpacked the little dehumidifier that I will soon set up- it removes excess humidity from the air in the room, protecting the items from the advancing effects of time, that unavoidable supreme force of the material world.
Next time I will relate the story of Prabhupada’s personal Los Angeles-based 1968 Mercedes SL250 which took him to morning walks at Venice Beach and in Cheviot Hills Park as well as to San Francisco Rathayatras and other preaching engagements, and how it recently came to Fiji.
Attached photos are of how the children decorated our Lord Nrsinghadeva deity, the new pasture clearing with burning brush, and our rice patch startuing to seed out (or up?)
Yours in Prabhupada’s service,
New Jayapur, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands