Visiting Murari Farm
Parampara cut the engine as we stepped out into the freezing cold night. I was struck by absolute silence, a rarity in the world today. Valley walls, illuminated by moonlight, rose into the distance. Above us, where trees met the sky, I saw countless stars shining, filling the heavens with a Milky Way streak. Planets shone and twinkled, “That red one must be Mars…” while satellites drifted peacefully by.
He and I stood in the cold silence for many minutes, appreciating the natural beauty of God’s creation, all but forgotten by the urban masses. No trucks, no machines, not even a cricket could be heard. We finally decided to walk up to the temple building, where devotees were singing prayers to Damodara, baby Krishna.
Murari Sevaka Farm is a 300 acre property in Tennessee, about two hours southeast from Nashville. The board of directors were convening for a meeting to discuss the future of the project – finishing construction on the main building, renovating the cabins, developing an economy, and building a community. My mentor Gayatri Dasa, one of the trustees, invited me to join in on the occasion.
First, I met advanced devotees I had heard so much about. Balavanta, the leader of the project, flew up from Florida in a tiny plane against 70 mph headwinds. Vamanadev and Mukunda came with him, experts in construction, renovation, and intentional communities.
Later on, we visited Gayatri’s cabin, overlooking the valley, on top of the ridge. It looked finished, but upon closer inspection, still needed substantial work. Originally a one-month job, it was now pushing on eight months, due to a shady contractor. Par for the course. For some reason, many of our projects have been delayed again and again.
Then we walked the property, assessing seven cabins spread across the valley. Built decades ago, with scant budgets, by devotees with plenty of heart but lacking construction expertise, most of them would require a complete overhaul to reach an acceptable standard that would attract high-class people to visit.
I acted as secretary, capturing all the notes on the fly in my iPhone. “New roof and siding on cabin one. Cabin two needs floors and gutters. New double pane windows all around. Cabin three is a goner, black mold…” This pivotal service brought me close to the devotees and formed instant friendships. At the end of the day, we sat together in the temple room and drafted a final document for the contractor. I had to venture out of the valley to send it off – no cell service or internet on site. That’s when Parampara and I shared our moment of stargazing, completely dark by 6pm.
As the only visitor spending the night on the farm, I was invited to stay in the guest cabin. It was simple, austere, clean, and cold. With no distractions, I cozied up to the space heater, read from Srila Prabhupada’s books, and got to bed early. Being close to nature helps me to feel more conscious of God’s presence, in tune with reality.
As I chanted a chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, the dawn broke well before 6am. Always enlivened by new experiences, I skipped down to the bathhouse for ablutions. Thank goodness, the water was warm! I bundled up against the freezing cold and made my way to the temple building for Mangala Arati. Parampara, his wife Mitravinda, and their three daughters live here full-time, taking care of the property and the Deities, Nitai-Gauracandra. He and I sang and danced our hearts out for the Lord, and his representative who named this farm, Srila Prabhupada.
When all the other devotees arrived from their various hotels and homes, we had a wonderful program to celebrate Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day. Each spoke of their personal encounters with Prabhupada, and their realizations about guru-tattva, what it means to have a spiritual master. It culminated with a heartfelt flower-offering ceremony, singing and dancing in kirtan, and a sumptuous 10-course feast prepared with love by several devotees.
At the board meeting which followed, Balavanta shared his vision for the future of Murari. He explained how this farm is a doorway into the spiritual world, Vaikuntha, a place free from anxiety. We can show the world a simpler, more natural way of life. By making it nice, we can attract Krishna, and the general populace as well. He shared an idea to sell clusters of building lots around the property to fund and perpetuate a community here.
As the sun went down, we all drove around the property scoping out locations for future housing. In a heart-warming flurry of “So nice to meet you” we all exchanged contact information and began our journeys home.
After weeks of semi-isolation, working from my tiny home on a warehouse parking lot in Columbia, TN, this adventure to the farm was a breath of fresh air. Meeting such exalted souls refreshed my desire to serve and associate with advanced devotees. Any one person can open an entire world of opportunity, as I have learned time and time again. Let’s see what Krishna has in store next!