As in the last two years, I took the opportunity to once again attend the Bhakti Sangam Festival held this year on the shores of the Black Sea. Some five thousand devotees gathered for the five days’ gala event that consisted of a variety of workshops during the day and non-stop sweet harinam in the evenings. Yamuna Prana prabhu, who heads up his rural project called MOTHER FARM, arranged for a small team of devotees to set up a booth and display various paraphernalia and cow products from his farm. Assisting him were Bala prabhu, Bhakta Simon and other devotees.
For four consecutive days, devotees had an opportunity to attend seminars presented by some 10 senior Vaisnavas from all over the world. I took the opportunity to speak on the topic of Vedic Rural Life and how our Vedic culture is primarily an agrarian based society where the majority of people live a simple life connected with land, cows and devotional service to Krishna, a contrast with today’s highly sophisticated industrialized, mechanized and urbanized lifestyle. For each of the four days I briefly covered the four sciences presented in “Kautilya’s Arthashastra” that include 1) the science of Philosophy, 2) the science of Education, 3) the science of Politics and 4) the science of Economics as they relate especially to the natural leaders of society, namely the brahmanas, the ksatriyas and the vaisyas.
The first day of the Bhakti Sangam Festival happened to be Purnima and Yamuna Prana prabhu had brought a young bull named Kumar (later to be named Nandi) for his friend Alek who also has his own farm. We took the opportunity to perform Go Puja while displaying various articles and produce from Yamuna Prana’s MOTHER FARM. There was a very good response from devotees who received a complimentary copy of the pamphlet Campaigner’s Guide promoting the OM Sri Surabhi Campaign as they stood in line waiting to take prasadam.
Some of the products on display included fresh paneer, yogurt, ghee, handmade pin badges showing photos of cows and, the most popular of all items distilled cow urine called Go Ark. During the 5 days event, some 300 bottles of Go Ark were distributed. Also on display were small statues of cows made of wood as they attracted the special attention of the children. On the last day of the seminar there was an unexpected announcement that Acyuta Priya prabhu, Regional Secretary for Ukraine, would be making a Power Point presentation entitled “Varnasrama – The Impossible is Possible”. We left the Bhakti Sangam feeling very happy having make acquaintance with more devotees interested in the varnasrama mission.
After the Bhakti Sangam Festival, September 9th, we drove to Alex’s farm community, a project covering 150 hectares or 375 acres. Alex has been very active since many years in rescuing cows from slaughter and in giving an opportunity to devotees to engage in protecting these cows. He has a contract with local villages that they can keep a cow on condition that they milk the cow by hand and don’t sell the cow. Alex looks after over 94 milking cows that produce one thousand liters of milk daily. He has an equal number of bulls and calves.
In addition to his cow care program, he has also introduced vermiculture to enrich his soil, as he plans to grow grains beginning next year. More recently he has revived a colony of some 40 beehives that had been left unattended for some time. Somehow, by Krishna’s arrangement, and to his pleasant surprise, Alex found bees coming back on their own to repopulate the hives. He has developed a unique way to collect honey using upside down open jars that he places on top of each hive. Amazingly enough, bees produce honey in these jars that can then be sealed and then sold.
We then spent a few days in Yamuna Prana prabhu’s residence on the outskirts of Kiev where we held evening programs with interested devotees mostly on the topic of varnasrama development.
On the last day of my visit, September 15th, I was invited to attend the opening day of the recently established Gurukula School that was started last year in Kiev. Some 15-devotee students are enrolled in the non-government private school and after a long 4-month summer holiday period, it was time to again start their new semester. The school is organized solely by devotee teachers and only for devotee children.
After the noon Gurukula program, we again proceeded to MOTHER FARM as Yamuna Prana prabhu had organized an evening Village Festival that started with a Jagannatha Pada Yatra procession with Hamsi the bull pulling the Lord’s small chariot that carried Their Lordships Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra. The procession led us to the local Village Community Hall where some 75 devotees and some of the villagers joined together for bhajans, discourse, traditional dance, a Yoga demonstration and crowning the evening with Krishna prasadam. One of the devotees who attended the program, Siddha Muni prabhu, was eager to learn more about the ksatriya culture as part of the Varnasrama College that devotees hope to start at MOTHER FARM.