for Villa Vrindavana Magazine on Oct. 25, 2012
Villa Vrindavana is a large 16th century building of more than 4,500 square meters (48,000 square feet) and 85 hectares (210 acres) of land located a few kilometers from Florence, in the countryside.
It has been acquired by ISKCON Italy more than thirty years ago thanks to the effort of many, through the distribution of books.
During these three decades several temple presidents have come and gone and they have brought different points of view regarding the management of the project and even if many good things have been done, sometimes they greatly weakened the project.
Since 2005, temple president Parabhakti das and some other devotees have been working together and have been able to make some substantial changes for the better.
Things have been steadily improving as the number of devotees and friends close to Villa Vrindavana is gradually increasing. The results are more and more demonstrating this fact.
“The local government” explained Parabhakti “gave to us the ‘special farm’ status which recognizes that Villa Vrindavana is a place where agriculture, spirituality, culture and social events work together. The new status allows us to open many kinds of activities. The historical building, as well the green area, have special restrictions and it has been very difficult in the past to do anything in them or on them. It has been a long and hard diplomatic process. Over the last few years, Villa Vrindavana has hosted a lot of retreats of yoga, ayurveda as well as interfaith groups and conferences.
Also, Villa Vrindavana has been hosting the "Peace Values" conference for three years, where representatives of the academic and spiritual fields work together to discuss and find alternative solutions for a substainable lifestyle. The audience is usually mainly composed of professors and politicians. We have also held Bhakti Festivals. There are also new plans for the development of agriculture and cow protection, and the Pujary (altar service) department is finally becoming economically independent. We also have a new monthly magazine for the congregation”.
The project of hosting different groups proves to be an especially good way to bring many people to participate in the temple who would not have otherwise, thus using this beautiful building, which, of course, five centuries ago was not built as a temple.
In this way more and more people are coming and organizing their own retreats – and they enjoy taking part in the activities of the temple: classes, kirtan and in tasting Krishna prasadam three times a day at the restaurant.
“In the beginning it wasn’t easy,” confirmed Parabhakti. “The idea of utilizing the empty spaces of the big villa to host groups not belonging to our Vaisnava tradition, was revolutionary and several devotees were very skeptical and sometimes were also against the project. But we decided to go ahead in order to reach our goal of becoming self sufficient, using any means or opportunities that Krishna sent us.
Year after year, the results are proving that our choice was correct. More and more groups of yoga, ayurveda, Sufism are coming – and they are very happy with the spiritual atmosphere of the temple, and they come closer and closer to Krishna Consciousness.
These projects are also important to gain the trust of the local administrators who are cooperating with us more and more, also because they recognize an important social value of Srila Prabhupad’s movement