Gold, Guns and God: Vol. 8—The City of God

A Biography of Swami Bhaktipada and a History of the West Virginia New Vrindaban Hare Krishna Community in Ten Volumes by Henry Doktorski

New Vrindaban’s Minister of Music/Organist/Choir Director/Composer-In-Residence Hrishikesh dasa, with cantor and harpist Bhavisya devi dasi, and accordionist and timpanist Dutiful Rama at the console of the Allen electronic organ at the Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Temple of Understanding. Photo from New Vrindaban World, Vol. 1, No. 1 (February 1990).

Morning Program

In July 1988, the “acharya” of the New Vrindaban Hare Krishna Interfaith Community in Marshall County, West Virginia, known to his followers and disciples as “His Divine Grace Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada,” ordered that the 5 a.m. Morning Program, traditionally sung in Sanskrit and Bengali and accompanied by traditional Indian instruments like mrdanga drums and kartal cymbals, be translated into English and accompanied by Western instruments, such as the pipe organ and timpani.

Although many New Vrindaban residents and guests (including a reporter for the Washington Post) appreciated the English Morning Program, it was noted with concern by leaders of ISKCON. The Philadelphia ISKCON temple president, GBC representative and ISKCON guru, Ravindra Svarupa, claimed that Bhaktipada had “betrayed Vedic principles” by “accommodating to Western culture.”

He wrote: “I fear that Kirtanananda Swami, in accommodating to Western culture and specifically to Christianity, has betrayed Vedic principles. You’ve probably heard that Kirtanananda Swami has also established a Western choir which at festivals sings the church music of Bach and Handel, lyrics apparently Krishna-ized. He is also composing imitations of Christian devotional literature—an imitation of The Imitation of Christ and another of Pilgrim’s Progress. All these things, taken together, indicate that something very serious has gone amiss.”

In addition, the ISKCON spokesman, Anuttama dasa, said: “Kirtanananda had ‘set himself up as an independent authority’ and introduced unapproved worship practices, such as using an organ, instead of drums, and singing Christian hymns.”

This recording of the 5 a.m. Morning Program was made in October or November 1988 and was recorded by New Vrindaban’s resident sound engineer, Mahaprasada dasa, as I recall. Unfortunately, the microphones were not placed well, the equalization was unbalanced, the recording was haphazard, and after several decades of storage the cassette tape became flawed with wow and flutter. This is the only recording which I know of.

Despite the poor sound quality, the listener can get a good idea how the New Vrindaban Morning Program sounded during the first year of its inauguration. Within two short years, by 1990, an entire devotee orchestra was assembled to accompany the Morning Program, consisting of strings, woodwinds, brass instruments, percussion, harps, accordions and a harpsichord. The English Morning Program continued for six years and was finally discontinued in July 1994.

Musicians and cantors in this recording include: Hrishikesh dasa on organ, Dutiful Rama on timpani, Dhruva on glockenspiel, and cantors Bhavisya devi dasi and Brihan Naradiya Purana devi dasi, plus the congregation of the Cathedral of Understanding, New Vrindaban, West Virginia.

To listen to the New Vrindaban 1988 Morning Program, go to YouTube.

To hear a concert version of Within Vrindaban’s Woods and Groves, go to YouTube.

For more about the New Vrindaban City of God, see Henry Doktorski’s book, Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 8.

The morning service

Late in 1988 the morning service was standardized and consisted of eight songs.

(1) Processional: Lyrics by Hrishikesh dasa. Music: Easter Hymn from Lyra Davidica (1708)

    Gather we to greet our Lord, Hare Krishna.
    Chant his name and hear his word. Hare Krishna.
    Lift your voices, sing with joy! Hare Krishna.
    Praise this glorious cowherd boy, Hare Krishna.

    Rise ye early every day. Hare Krishna.
    Grant us service, Lord, we pray. Hare Krishna.
    Make our hearts pure, free from sin. Hare Krishna.
    Let us know thy love within. Hare Krishna.

(2) Prayers to the Spiritual Masters: English translation by Umapati Swami, melody from a Plainsong chant, accompaniment by Hrishikesh dasa. Cantor: Bhavisya devi dasi.

    All glories to you, Bhaktipada,
    Lord Krishna’s servant dear,
    You worship at his feet and spread
    His message far and near.

    O servitor of Prabhupada,
    You’ve founded in the West
    A city where Lord Krishna’s love
    And pastimes manifest.

    All glories to you, Prabhupada,
    Lord Krishna’s servant dear,
    You worship at his feet and spread
    His message far and near.

    O Saraswati Deva,
    You’ve spread the Holy Name
    And saved the Western countries from
    Impersonalist shame.

(3) Prayers to Tulasi Devi by Chandrasekhara Kavi: English translation by Umapati Swami, melody from a Plainsong chant, accompaniment by Hrishikesh dasa

    I bow before you, Tulasi,
    Beloved of the Lord.
    To serve Radha and Krishna’s feet
    Is my desired reward.

    You grant the wish of one who seeks
    The shelter of your grace.
    You take him home to Vraja Dham,
    Lord Krishna’s holy place.

    I beg that I may live beneath
    Vrindaban’s holy skies,
    Where Radha and Lord Krishna’s love
    Unfolds before one’s eyes.

    I pray that I may take the path
    The cowherd damsels tread.
    I’ll be your serving maid and take
    Your dust upon my head.

    This lowly servant of the Lord
    Desires to find the sea
    Of Radha and Lord Krishna’s love
    And swim eternally.

    I walk around you step by step,
    My sins are cleared away,
    Though I’ve offended saintly souls,
    I beg your grace today.

(4) Pancha Tattva Mantra

    Hail Lord Krishna Chaitanya,
    Master Nityananda,
    Saints Advaita, Gadadhar,
    Srivasa and all Krishna bhaktas.

(5) Hare Krishna Maha-mantra

    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,
    Krishna Krishna Hare Hare;
    Hare Rama Hare Rama,
    Rama Rama Hare Hare.

(6) Gurudev Song: by Vishvanath Chakravarti (1626-1708). English translation by Hayagriva, music by Hrishikesh dasa. Cantor: Bhavisya devi dasi.

    (1) The blazing fire of samsara
    Afflicts us all life after life;
    But gurudev is gentle rain
    Extinguishing this mortal strife.

    (2) When gurudev sings Krishna’s praise
    Sad tears of yearning fill his eyes;
    Let’s all take shelter at his feet
    And try for pure devotion’s prize.

    (3) In Krishna’s house he daily serves,
    He bows before Their Lordship’s form
    To show us perfect love of God
    And thus becalm life’s raging storm.

    (4) Our gurudev provides the Lord
    With garlands, incense, drink and food,
    And we’re enlivened to behold
    His holy and ecstatic mood.

    (5) Of transcendental themes he sings,
    Of Radha-Krishna’s pristine love;
    Delighting in their sportive games
    Performed in boundless worlds above.

    (6) He helps Lord Krishna meet Radha,
    Assists their rendezvous someway;
    He knows Vrindaban’s woods and groves
    And pastures where the cowherds play.

    (7) He is the good Lord’s confidant
    And represents him on this earth;
    The scriptures bid us follow him:
    His matchless gifts surpass all worth.

    (8) When gurudev bestows his grace
    We truly with God’s blessing meet;
    May we remember thrice a day
    To worship at his lotus feet.

(7) Prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva from Sri dasavatara-stotra by Jayadeva Goswami (c. 1170-c. 1245). English translation by Umapati Swami, music by Hrishikesh dasa.

    All glories to Nrsimhadeva,
    Prahlad finds joy in you alone.
    You killed Hiranyakasipu,
    Your nails, like chisels, cutting stone.

    (1) Nrsimhadeva is everywhere,
    Within the heart and outside too.
    O source of all, O great refuge,
    Let me surrender unto you.

    (2) The beauty of your lotus hands,
    Each wondrous nail sharp as a sword.
    The wasp Hiranyakasipu
    Was ripped apart by these, my Lord.

    (3) O Keshava, O Lord Hari,
    All glories to this form sublime.
    Half man, half lion, God of all,
    You rule the worlds through endless time.

(8) Vrindaban’s Woods and Groves: originally Jaya radha-madhava from Gitavali by Bhaktivinode Thakur (1838-1914). English translation by Umapati Swami, accompaniment by Hrishikesh dasa. Cantor: Brihan Naradiya Purana devi dasi.

    Within Vrindaban’s woods and groves,
    Lord Krishna and Radha unite
    To taste the joy of spir’tual love.
    All glories to the holy sight.

    Lord Krishna’s beauty thrills the soul,
    Defeating even Cupid’s dart.
    The boy who lifted Govardhan
    Has won away the gopis’ hearts.

    Yasoda Mata’s darling son,
    Yamuna River’s pride and joy,
    The treasure of all devotees—
    All glories to this cowherd boy.

Back to: Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 8