. From New Jayapur, Prabhupadanuga Farm in Fiji
A full moon filters through thin clouds and lights up a jagged band of the ocean surface with a silvery glow, as a soft breeze fails to hide the relentless sound of the incoming tide’s lapping waves. The beach coconuts stretch upwards in dark silhouettes before the shimmering waters that stretch into the dark horizon. The purity and beauty of Lord Krishna’s material nature is right here- a most favorable situation to progress on the spiritual path. While I finish my rounds, the others are blissfully oblivious indoors, watching the new extended Ramayana movie for the second time. When the clouds thicken and the moon is almost obscured, the night becomes blacker, an unseen coconut falls and thuds on the beach, and I join the others inside. Lord Rama smiles understandingly at Manthara and with enthusiasm accepts exile in the forest. Our self-imposed ”exile” to the Fiji rainforest is likewise enthusiastically accepted.
Sridevi was wanting more sets of clothes for Sri Sri Radha Govinda, our merciful deities. But, I protested, we already have16 sets, and you are changing Their clothes only once a week. The deity closet rack for clothes was quite full; maybe next year we can order another set of clothes. I had said this for many years now, and even though I felt it was the practical decision, still I was somewhat uneasy about not facilitating her enthusiasm for dressing Govinda in new outfits. She insisted there could be no limit to Their wardrobe, and I stuck to the practical line, saying that only major temples had more deity clothes than us. Sridevi admitted that dressing the deities was her greatest pleasure in life, and she could not help but want more beautiful outfits for Radha Govinda. I wished I had some of that desire.
Meanwhile, out of the far blue yonder, our devotee friends wrote from Texas- they had gotten a number of sets of Radha-Krishna deity clothes from a major Hindu temple, and wondered if our children might like them for their play or Vedic drama performances. We had a container being shipped out of Los Angeles with Prabhupada’s Mercedes, so we arranged for the deity outfits to be sent and included as well. Delays ran into a year and finally, after the harrowing struggle to get the container released by the Fiji government, we received the contents just as we moved out to the farm this February. For months there had been the strong possibility that the container and 1968 Mercedes, being a “prohibited item” (importing a car over 8 years old), would have to be sent BACK to California…
The deity clothes in several gigantic cartons sat unnoticed for many weeks while we unpacked and settled into our farm quarters. One day, Sridevi opened the boxes, saw that the “used” clothes were actually totally fresh and unused, and she became very excited. Maybe the Texas Hindu temple had only used them a few times. She was dressing the deities that day, and with a few pins, tucks, and tricks, the Texas outfits were found to fit our Lordships just fine. They were all very gorgeous outfits, in multifarious and embroided silks and satins with opulent trims and adornments. Every hue, shade, and color except black was to be found in twenty-one new, brilliant outfits!
What had happened here? Slowly it dawned on me. Lord Govinda had made his own arrangements to obtain more outfits for Himself from halfway around the world, and also to fulfill His devotee’s desire to personally serve Him in a particular way. His pastimes are mysterious and amazing indeed! Sridevi is joyfully choosing from a deity wardrobe of 37 outfits every when she and the children dress Radha Govinda. And my realization of Who the deity is has been deepened… and it is I who am dependant on He, not vice versa! (Deep thanks to Dharmabhavana Prabhu in Dallas, Texas)
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q: Why did you choose Fiji as the location for the New Jayapur Vedic village?
A: Fiji has the friendliest and happiest people in the world, confirmed by various surveys. The new military government has actually effected a great positive change in the culture, largely eliminating racism, corruption, and discrimination. Fiji is 42% Indian, of which over 30% are Hindus; therefore Lord Krishna and Lord Rama are well known here- and the debilitating mayavadism that is all pervading in India is not present in Fiji. Because such a large portion of the population is very receptive to Krishna consciousness, it is a favorable place for devotees to preach and reside. Fiji is a very safe place in the world, with little serious crime, and has a wonderful climate. It also has bedrock-secure full freehold titled land, a necessity for a village project. Outside of towns, there are no property taxes. The first language is English, with native Fijian and Hindi second languages. There are no snakes or scorpions, tigers or malaria. The people are already familiar with or actually living a simple life. There are several very feasible avenues available for foreigners to obtain residency and then citizenship after five years. Plus, Fiji is an exotic, beautiful island country in the South Pacific (think waving coconut trees on a beach).
Q: What about schooling for children?
A: Prabhupada really did not like outside karmi schooling for our children, and until a village community grows large enough to start its own cooperative gurukula, home schooling is perhaps the best option. Our three children (ages 12, 10, 7) have been schooled at home since they were 4 or so, and are far ahead of their peers, both here in Fiji and in the USA. Even though there are so many schooling interruptions and adjustments in a home situation, still there are 5 hours average of time put into study and books daily. They read Prabhupada’s books, memorize Gita verses, and have about a dozen subjects such as math, geography, science, handwriting, grammar, various skills, etc. There is no need to send our children to karmi schools; rather this would be a horrible disadvantage both spiritually as well as materially. It takes awhile to get the children used to the discipline of pushing through their own lessons on their own strength, and some do better than others, but these same problems would be there in karmi schools too. Parents should not be lazy and just farm their kids out because there may be some difficulty or hassle in properly educating their children the Prabhupada-way. Of course, the fact that their mother Sridevi dasi is a retired public school teacher helps a lot, and this could be an asset to other residents in future who may want to follow suit and do home schooling (it’s not that difficult!). The curriculum, texts, routine etc has been laid out and can easily be applied to other children. Eventually a gurukula with teachers, classrooms will manifest as the village grows. But public schools are a no-go for purity in the village- essentially it would be importing karmi influences via our own children.
Without internal access roads, the many separate areas of the farm cannot be very easily developed. The Roman Empire expanded and flourished, historians say, because of their excellent road network. The property is 857 acres, but it is constituted of many small areas separated by the river, hills, forests, side streams, etc. There are pockets of flat arable land here and there, up and down the river valley, with large parts being sloped or steep hillsides, boggy land needing drainage ditches, or original thick rainforest. Our first challenge was to construct a main entrance road from the public road to our seaside village site. We brought a used 7 ton Kobelco excavator from New Zealand and in 6 months that first road was finished. Since then we have been making more internal branches of roads to reach all parts of the farm.
Our roads are single lane, cleared from bush or forest, with base material overlaid with gravel from our own river. The amount of gravel in our river seems endless, and has already supplied enough for all construction and four kilometers of farm roadways. In many areas, we need to clear enough surrounding trees so the sun can adequately dry the roadway, otherwise ruts and rain will undermine the hard base and the purpose of a road is defeated. The farm vehicles, tractor, dumpers all need hard surfaces, as will bullocks with carts and wagons in the future. So far this year we have built a 1 km road branch to the worker camphouse that will soon extend to an undeveloped 30 acre part of the farm called Naiviriviri, drainage ditches in our first orchard, a detour around the temple site, a cliffside road connecting the two orchards, and building up a low riverside plot for the equipment shed. We have one river ford (crossing) where one drives through a foot or more of water, and soon we will need to build a concrete bridge across the river nearer the ocean. So a network of farm roads is a vital element to our project’s infrastructure and viability.
FROM THE GARDEN
This, my small plot next to the rice field here in New Jayapur, is my third attempt at developing some gardening skills. Some success, some frustration. I was not born with a green thumb, and I have little time to devote to my garden, maybe 3 hours a week. Still, I was happy to pick on a single day the following: handfuls of French beans, longbeans (18 inches), and mung beans; a dozen tender eggplants, a stack of green bele leaves, some papayas, passion fruits, and kumquats, limes, lemons. Fresh water cress went to the salad, and most of lunch was thus grown right here on the farm. It was very satisfying in several ways: as prasadam, as useful service , as pleasing to Srila Prabhupada.
Yours in Prabhupada’s service,
New Jayapur, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands
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Hare Krishna! All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!
- Bhaktin Vrinda, Saradiya, Sridevi in town with books, halavah, laddus, every
- Shyamananda, SriGovinda in a mango tree cave, a ways down the island coast
- Saradiya absorbed in her homeschooling (how many subjects do you have? Ten?!)
- The double-story dharmashalla building is powered solely by the sun
- Pouring of concrete footers on the “Garden Cottage” overlooking rice, pastures