ISKCON's Krishna Valley self-sufficient rural project in Hungary now attracts 30,000 tourists per year. Why did these young people turn to a natural and simple life? What is the mission of their community? Gaura-Sakti Dasa, the president of Krishna Valley ISKCON community, answers these questions for Krishna Valley Magazine (published by Manorama Dasa, Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness).
Why do we need spiritiual farm communities?
When SrÃla Prabhup ada left India for America to spread Krisna consciousness, he did not want just to disseminate a religion outside of India. He wanted to completely change the materialistic worldview that has become common everywhere. The teachings of Krisna consciousness affect all aspects of life. This God conscious perspective is based on Vedic philosophy. If people wish to live in accordance with the Vedic philosophical principles, then the most effective way of achieving this is in a rural economy, in harmony with nature, in the company of people who think similarly about God, the world, and the meaning and purpose of life.
How did the idea of establishing such a community in Hungary come to you?
SrÃla Prabhupada established rural communities in several locations worldwide and he gave his disciples the opportunity to found new communities. His mission was taken up in Hungary by Srila Sivarama Swami. He, in turn, emphasized to his disciples many times that the practical application of the knowledge contained in Srila Prabhupada’s books can have a serious impact on society. When people see in practice the rural community life based on the ancient Vedic message, they are affected.
How did the development start in Krishna Valley? How did you personally get involved?
I came to know about Krisna consciousness in 1991. Then, after I had moved into the Budapest temple and become a monk, I felt very enthusiastic when my spiritual master, Sivarama Swami, spoke about the need to establish a farm community. Together with some of my companions, I searched for an appropriate location. We went to many places in Hungary. There were beautiful regions near Pécs, but because they were in the vicinity of the uranium mines, the area was polluted by radiation. Then there were places where people had an aversion to us. In SomogyvÃ¡mos we found both a beautiful natural environment and a positive reception. The then mayor, Mr. LÃ¡szlÃ³ Hanzel, thought our presence would bring new life to the village. We were glad to accept his proposal to buy a beautiful valley. Finally, in April 1993, we could buy the first big areas of land, as Part of an auction. In this way, we started our rural program in Hungary, the one that Srila Prabhupada artfully described by the motto ’Simple living and high thinking’. I moved to the farm in 1998, and I have been the leader of the community since then.
People say that modernity makes life easier and more enjoyable, and because of that, most of them reject the idea of returning to a simpler way of life.
Modern people seek happiness in sense objects. They buy all kinds of machinery in the hope that they will become happier. To put it another way, they simply fall prey to the marketing policies of the consumer society, which are based on creating an illusion of happiness. While equipping themselves with many useless articles, they completely forget about the people around them and become impersonal. They begin to consider and treat humans beings as objects. Their relationships become shallow and personal dealings and true love disappear from their lives. The result is that they become unhappy. And they see no way out of the situation. The biggest problem of our time is depression. We can see that the development of technological comforts does not make people happy but causes the opposite effect.
How can a simple rural life remedy this problem?
Simplicity is not enough. We become happy only if we develop a personal attitude of caring for more than material things. And the objective of all this is not some kind of sentimentalism but getting to know the greatest person, Lord Sri Krisna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Making His acquaintance is easier for those who learn to live depending only on Him. The magnificient organization of nature reflects His unlimited intelligence and care, and the ever-new beauty of nature reflects the indescribable opulence of the spiritual world.
What is the mission of the residents of Krishna Valley?
Our goal at Krishna Valley is to establish a society based on a spiritual foundation. Following the principle of self-sufficiency, we depend on the land and cows for our living. We educate our children in spiritual life and practice the process of Krisna consciousness to attain pure love of God. And we have a strong hope that by our humble efforts our example may become a source of inspiration for those sincere souls who are seeking for pure spirituality and loving and caring community.
What have you already achieved and what are your future plans?
At present we have a wonderful community of 130 devotees and we have all the basic facilities we need for our Krisna conscious life. We have a beautiful temple for worshipping Radhe-Syama, we have a school to educate our children. We also have a gosala with 38 happy cows and the different gardens where we can grow what we need to offer to Radhe-Syama and maintain the community, and all these in a beautiful rural environment. When we started the farm the pioneers of the project were in their early twenties but today most of them are married people and the families are just in the natural phase of accepting the responsibility of receiving children. I may list many wonderful projects for the future but I believe that the main future challenge is to be able to continuously engage and maintain the devotee families, since a solid social and spiritual environment is very much needed if one wants to harmoniusly progress in Krisna consciousness, especially in a householder life situation.
How do you personally evaluate your achievements here?
We founded Krishna Valley just more then 16 years ago (in 1993), and we have a long way to go before the farm becomes a perfect example of a God-centered society and self-sufficient economy. However our achievement here so far point in a very inspiring way to the truth of Srila Prabhupada’s teaching that ‘simple living and high thinking’ are a realistic basis for a practical alternative to modern society. Those who would like to find a solution to the spiritual and material problems of modern society may have a look with interest to the model we follow, as we also call it to be daiva-varnasrama-dharma.