Our first temple was in my home at Warkworth. This was a really bad idea. To mix a public temple with a private home is to put tremendous strain on any family. Every morning at 5 AM about 20 people came to our house for a spiritual program that included a mangal arati, a japa time, a Bhagavatam class, a Deity greeting and a communal breakfast. This lasted till 8:30 every morning. It was insane, yet it seemed the only way to start a spiritual community. We even had a communal lunch at 1pm and a Gita class at 6pm. We tried to do everything just right, but we were slowly killing ourselves. Kama Nagari and I put tremendous strain on our marriage for which we would pay dearly.
After some months we received our first brahmachari, a young man named Jnani Das, who had been sent by Bhaktipada in New Vrindavan. Brahmacharis are divine creatures! Everyone should have one. With the help of Jnani Das our community could have a separate income other than from my pocket. Unfortunately, with the addition of our brahmachari we had entered the Sankirtana Business, the pick, which I have mentioned already. I was not at all happy with this, yet it did help tremendously. This is the seduction of the pick.
Now that we had an income we rented a separate building, a farmhouse centrally located to our community that we could use as a temple. This building was just a few minutes drive from my house. We turned the upstairs of this farmhouse into our temple room and we used the downstairs for a kitchen and a community eating room. One downstairs bedroom was given to Jnani Das and the other was used as a temple office. We were in business. While this took tremendous pressure off my family, it was was still a grueling schedule. Everyday at 4:30 AM I would drive with Kama Nagari to this new temple for the morning program. We basically followed the same program as before, but at least it was not in our home. I used to consult regularly with Bhaktipada in New Vrindavan on how to manage our new temple community. Everything had to be done under guru authority. That was the spiritual way. At the time most of our members were his disciples, so I thought it best to run everything through him. Looking back I really didn’t need to do this because I had my own authority, yet in those days I was young and didn’t want to exercise any personal authority. We were a Bhaktipada temple, an extension of New Vrindavan in foreign territory. This turned out to be a huge problem for me.
Our new community slowly developed. Every day I would drive to the temple for the morning program, then do my business which was in Campbellford 25 km away, then return for lunch, then go back to Campbellford for business and then finally return to the temple one final time for the evening program. On top of this I had to regularly drive to Toronto with all of the slippers manufactured by our business. While in Toronto I would attend classes at the university. I was driving almost 160,000 km every year. It was unbelievable. In time I trained Gaudiya to help me handle most of this driving. I also trained Lila Shuka, Gaudiya’s wife, to look after the bookkeeping of our business. At this time both Gaudiya and Lilashuka lived at our house. Another really bad idea.
On the other side of things Kanina had his business in the garage of his rented house in Warkworth. He was firing pottery in the garage. I was in Campbellford manufacturing slippers.
Kanina and I worked together to develop our new community that we called New Varshana. Not too far from where we lived was an old village called Norham. On our way to temple every morning we passed through this village, which had been a horse and buggy town that served the local farm communities in the days before automobiles. Once automobiles became prominent small towns like Norham gradually slipped into disuse and people moved away to the larger communities like Warkworth and Campbellford. In the center of Norham was an old rundown church long since abandoned and a general store which was still in use, but only barely. It did not take long before the idea came to us that we could buy the church and turn it into a shared factory. We could combine our businesses. Kanina could take one floor and I could take the other.
From this initial idea to consolidate our businesses the thought of turning Norham into a temple town gradually evolved. The church was situated in the center of town. Own the church and we could own the town. Perhaps we could even acquire the general store across the street. Then Norham would really be ours. At this time, however, our plan was simply to use the old church as a factory and then, in the future, if things worked out we could convert the old church into a temple. We bought this building for a mere $12,000, each putting $6000 into the project. The building was in bankruptcy so we were able to get it for almost nothing, but it was anything but cheap. An old building takes an ocean of money just make it usable. Nothing worked. There was no water, no electricity, no drains, the roof leaked and the foundation was sinking. There were back taxes and hidden county fees to be paid. Whatever could be wrong with a building this building had it in spades. Yet with high hopes and great dreams Kanina, Gaudiya and I joyfully took on the job to renovate this building into our workplace.
I remember crawling around in the dirt basement of this old church with blowtorches and propane heaters trying to thaw out the foundation so we could get the drains working. We started our work in the dead of winter. Unless you have experienced a Canadian winter you have no idea how cold it can be and how deep the frost goes into the ground, well over a mile, or so it seemed. I remember jacking up the building to level the floors. I learned so much about plumbing and electricity. We did everything ourselves. We even built a chain pulley elevator in order to allow me to bring sewing supplies to the second floor. It was a huge amount of work, but we thrived on it. We were on a mission from God.
It took a tremendous amount of money and a Herculean effort, but gradually we got this building into use. The pottery business moved to the bottom floor and the slipper manufacturing business went to the upper floor. I moved my equipment from Campbellford to this location including many of my workers. Surprisingly everything worked. We would go to the temple in the morning then come to our church/factory during the day and then return to the temple in the evening. Our homes were close by. It was a good move.
I am not sure whether we did this for months or for a year, but eventually the idea came to us that it was time turn our factory into our temple.