Gurukula: New Vrindavan Private School

The Hare Krishna Movement tried to implement in the West the age old gurukula system whereby school aged children would live separately from their parents in their own ashrama and attend school. In the 1970's the first three schools were established in Dallas, New Vrindavan, and Vrindavan, India.

Usually at the age of five, the children went to live in the ashrams - divided by age and gender. The children would live in small units with an adult monitor, rise early for morning worship services, and, after breakfast, attend school taught by devotee teachers.* The children around the movement were sent to school and only visited their parents on school breaks several times a year.

At New Vrindavan, the gurukula school consisted primarily of children from the community. The children spent time with their parents every Sunday. Initially, the boys and the girls lived in separate farm houses (about 15 in each group) a short distance from the main part of the community. The children attended classes at their respective houses. Besides their regular studies, they also learned Sanskrit.

The student population grew along with the population of the community. In the early 80's a number of boys were sent to study at ISKCON's international school in Vrindavan, India. By 1984 the community school had its own building, a principal, twelve full time teachers, and over 100 children in attendance. This co-educational facility was recognized as a private school by the state of West Virginia. The students also performed in plays and in choirs.

In 1987, under growing public scrutiny, Kirtananada and the managerial board decided to send most of the community children to public school. The public schools welcomed them with open arms, and, for the most part the children adjusted very well to their new situation and received above average grades. All the children returned home to live with their parents. A small day school was still maintained in New Vrindavan to accommodate the nursery and the children who wanted to be educated in the community. Eventually, dwindling community funding for the school was off set by parents paying a small monthly tuition for their children's education. By 1998, due to a dwindling student population, the school closed down.

The children who grew up and went to gurukula school in New Vrindavan have gone on to a variety of pursuits. The vast majority no longer live in the community, but are scattered throughout the country. Many of them still consider themselves devotees of Krishna. Some of them entered and have graduated from college. One graduated from WVU Law School. One works with a government environmental agency and was involved in the testing for anthrax in Washington, DC. Others went on to study medicine, nursing and finance. Another college graduate joined the Marines. A number of young men have served in the armed forces. Other former students went into a variety of fields: truckers, a UPS driver, film maker, jewelry design and manufacturing, musicians, a chef, an airline flight attendents, and a tugboat worker in NYC. Two have sued the community, resulting in settlements. Some have married within the religion. A few have married outside the religion and have adopted their spouses' religion or visa versa . A few of the women are single mothers. Sadly, included in the list are two young men who committed suicide.

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