Srila Prabhupada said that he personally considers living off the land to be the bija (seed) mantra of varnasrama. The vaisya is required to make this work on a practical level. The majority of devotees already live within the congregation and work to earn money in different ways to support their asrama - they act as vaisyas. And Srila Prabhupada said that most of us are vaisyas or sudras.
So presently, within the devotee community, most of us already live the life of vaisyas in the literal sense, that is we are devotees who earn money and understand spiritual values and the tradition. Although as vaisyas, we do not earn money according to tradition, we still earn money in different ways; as professionals, businessmen, artisans, and office workers - to provide material comforts such as a nice home for our family – as traditional vaisyas used to do. The difference between devotees earning money and materialists earning money is that devotees use it in the mode of goodness and sometimes passion whereas materialists act more like sudras and use money in ignorance, to satisfy their bodily senses.
So strictly speaking, devotees working on the outside are not sudras but vaisyas. One can advance in spiritual life in the asrama of a vaisya, and attain brahmana consciousness yet remain a vaisya. As the system evolves, some will naturally desire to act as administrators (ksatriyas) within the community, and some may be more suited to take on the responsibility of brahmanas.
The best way to kick-start varnasrama would be to create communal living amongst the vaisyas, who are predominantly grhasthas. Encourage them to earn the money they need in a more traditional way – farming. In this way, let the system of varnasrama evolve.
An idea would be to acquire huge tracts of land, divide them into four acres or so each, and sell them to devotees who want to farm, with around 100-200 hundred little farms per project. For devotees who cannot afford to pay for the land and do not have start-up capital, some arrangements could be made for them to pay as they earn. Some infrastructure will be needed. There can be a little village within the community, with basic shops, a gurukula, a temple and other facilities needed to run a small village. Roads can be laid down between farms and the village for easy access. Devotees working outside and those in businesses who don’t want to farm can be encouraged to locate their offices or businesses within the village and deal with the outside from there. Let the grhasthas themselves get together and organise these communities.
Most devotees, especially within India and other economically poorer countries would be more inclined to jump into this. Imagine Indian grhastha devotees having the opportunity to earn between two and three lakh Indian rupees a year as profit, this is a good middle income salary in India - they will really make it work. Devotees who know something about farming in India may not agree that one can earn approximately seventy thousand rupees per acre a year. This is because farmers in India presently get only a fraction of the amount of what the end consumer pays for produce. Devotees within a village community could have their own devotee agency serving the farmers directly, who could engage in direct marketing and look at other ways to maximize profit. Local milk collectors go around all parts of India to buy milk and traditional farmers normally have at least two cows and a bull per family. Excess milk can be sold for additional income. Agricultural specialists even speak about the possibility of earning one lakh per acre. But the individual vaisya is needed to put in the effort to make it work – when someone works for themselves, there is naturally inspiration and success.
Just like in communism, people are not inspired to put their best effort in their jobs because they work for the state. But if it were their own businesses, they will work day and night to make it a success. Although Srila Prabhupada mentioned spiritual communism; this means that as a spiritual society we should be community based. We should have restrictions which encourage devotees to regulative their lives. There should be some conservative authority and not freedom to do as we please. Varnasrama should have a vibrant, sustainable economy, based on solid economic principles of productivity and not speculation. Vaisyas are allowed to earn money. Within the present model followed by most ISKCON farms, there is a central authority and devotees work for that authority, the vaisya spirit is not encouraged.
The object of varnasrama, which is to assist devotees go back to the spiritual world, should not be compromised. In daivi- varnasrama, devotee farmers and traders should work with the object of attaining Karma-yoga consciousness – work done as an offering to Krsna without attachment to the fruits.
Each community could have a local council – made up of devotees with administrative and managerial skills or inclinations; this could be helpful to determine who the future ksatriyas will be. Sannyasis and spiritual masters could advise in the role of brahmanas.
Most devotees will not want to work as sudras, and in any case, there are not enough devotees around to do manual labour so local labourers for these farms can be hired. In countries such as India, where labour is in abundance and cheap and the way of life is still simple, this can really take off. There are possibilities also in countries such as South America, Africa and maybe Eastern Europe - the lifestyle is simple and labour is easily available. Labourers can live on the farms if necessary. They can be preached to and encouraged to eat only vegetarian meals when within the community – thus filling in the sudra vacuum. Even Western countries could start these communities. If devotees want to sacrifice living in suburbs and cities, this will work.
Devotees need to work within the framework of their respective government’s economic structures and laws to get started. It will be an impediment to try and establish a communities own currency, economic model, defence etc (as some envision with varnasrama) at the same time as getting devotees settled on their own piece of land to begin farming. Off course, there should be some future planning, but the emphasis should be on just getting things done now. If, in every country of the world, little pockets of these communities spring up, then in the future, when the time is right for the golden age to take off, these communities will expand phenomenally all around them. If we want to establish varnasrama now, the immediate focus should be on getting devotees settled on their own land – the “bija mantra.”