Better known for its vineyards than ashrams, the Hunter Valley is one of the premier tourist destinations in New South Wales. However, with its abundant natural beauty and tranquil ambiance it's also the perfect spot to head to for those who yearn to escape the rat-race of city life and delve deeper into a simpler, more harmonious way of living. Located on the outskirts of Millfield, a tiny hamlet just twelve kilometres from Cessnock, New Gokula farm is a Hare Krishna ashram community that embraces India's ancient Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition and its philosophy of simple living and higher, more spiritualised thinking.
Although Hare Krishna people are famous worldwide for their colourful street chanting and sumptuous vegetarian cuisine, many people aren't aware of this facet of their lifestyle - dedication to simpler, more environmentally-sustainable living, with a focus on cultivating spiritual values, rather than accumulating more and more material assets. Endeavouring to transform this utopian ideal into a reality, Hare Krishna farming communities strive to develop self-sufficiency, growing many of their own fruits and vegetables, and following the ancient Indian practice of cow protection - providing a safe-haven where these gentle intelligent creatures can peacefully pass their full lifespan.
New Gokula is one of three Hare Krishna farms in Australia, and is conveniently located just two and a half hours from Sydney, and forty minutes from Newcastle. A relatively small community, it's the home of about eight full-time ashram residents, although other followers and well-wishers regularly visit, volunteering their time and talents, or just popping in to say 'Hello!' It's a tranquil friendly place and whether you're a member of the local Hindu community, a yoga enthusiast, interested in eco-friendly living or simply curious, there is always plenty to see and do.
Although guests are always welcome, New Gokula's weekly Sunday Feast is definitely the best time to drop in if you want to learn more. This special program consists of bhajans and kirtan (traditional devotional singing), a class on the Bhagavad Gita (one of India's ancient spiritual texts) and a sumptuous vegetarian feast. From time to time visiting swamis give lectures, which spiritual seekers will especially enjoy. These people have been seriously following Gaudiya Vaisnavism for many years, and listening to their profound realisations on spiritual matters can be very enlightening. Sunday Feasts at New Gokula begin at 12.30pm and usually last around two hours.
If you're more into nature than philosophy you're also very welcome to go for a walk around the farm, and check out the various projects that are taking place. However, be sure to speak to one of the residents first so they can guide you, if necessary, or offer suggestions about what to see. If you're craving to connect with the earth, perhaps you'd like to volunteer a few hours in the garden. As all gardeners know, there's always so much work to be done in large productive gardens – planting, composting, pruning and harvesting. Whether you're experienced or not, your time and energy would be greatly appreciated.
Simple ashram-style accommodation is also sometimes available for those who would like to volunteer a few days or weeks of their time. This is a great option for young backpackers or students who'd like to experience Australian farm life, are interested in self-sufficiency, or who want to learn more about Bhakti Yoga, as well as families from Sydney's and Newcastle's Hindu communities.
Another popular time to visit New Gokula is when one of the annual Gaudiya Vaisnava festivals is taking place. During traditional festivals such as Gaura Purnima, Balarama Jayanti and Sri Krishna Janmastami the temple comes alive with colour and activity. If you're inclined to volunteer, these festivals are a good time to offer your service, as help is always needed with decorations and in the kitchen.
In a nutshell, whether you're a nature-lover, eco-enthusiast, spiritual seeker or simply curious, New Gokula farm is a lovely spot to visit when you have a few hours to spare, and there is much to interest people of all ages. While adults always enjoy escaping the stress of city life, children will love getting close to the farm animals, especially the young calves.
New Gokula farm is situated at 83 (Lot 1) Lewis Road in Millfield. From Cessnock's city centre, drive along Wollombi Road for approximately twelve kilometres until you reach Millfield. Turn right into Mount View Road, and continue for a couple of kilometres before turning left into Lewis Road. New Gokula is at the end of the road. If you're travelling from Sydney, the scenic route via Wollumbi is an alternate way to reach the farm. If you get lost, just pop into Millfield service station and they'll point you in the right direction.
To learn more about the farm and any upcoming events that will be held there, take a look at the New Gokula website
. Alternatively, you can phone the farm on 02 4998 1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.