This September 4th will be the 50th anniversary of ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada’s taking sannyasa, the renounced order of Vaishnavism. And ISKCON devotees will be celebrating it in exactly the way he would want them to—by drenching the globe in God’s holy names.
Spanning nine days from September 2nd to 11th, World Holy Name Week 2009 will be run by a team of global coordinators including Lokanatha Swami, Jananananda Goswami, Ekalavya Dasa, and new member Rama Prasad Dasa. Famous for their love of singing God’s names—and, in Ekalavya’s case, rocking a trumpet—this team has also begun recruiting continental coordinators from the USA, Canada, India, Europe, South America, and Australia.
If you are inspired by music, meditation, or prayer, World Holy Name Week’s three initiatives will have you—quite literally—dancing down the street for joy. The first is “Japathon,” which is exactly what it sounds like: a marathon, with meditational chanting on japa beads being the proverbial long-distance sprint. “It will run for the full nine days, and will give ISKCON temples a chance to encourage their congregational members in chanting japa,” says trumpeter Ekalavya Dasa. “To do this, they can encourage their congregations to increase their number of daily rounds, and to visit the temple for morning japa sessions. They can also set up chanting equipment stands for new devotees to buy beads and bead-bags at.”
Lord Chaitanya, the divine founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, advised that chanting the names of God was the ideal way to ward off the adverse effects of the modern age. With thousands dying in questionable wars, the environment being raped mercilessly, and the economy in a shambles, no one can argue that these days we are feeling these effects more than ever. And organizers of the first-ever annual Japathon hope to knock them out of the park by reaching their goal of one billion repetitions of God’s name.
“It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually quite achievable,” says Ekalavya, dishing us out some figures. “There are sixteen names of God in one maha-mantra, and one “round” of the mantra contains 108 repetitions, when chanted on japa beads. Now think about this: if just 4,020 devotees chant the sixteen rounds of japa that Prabhupada recommended for each of World Holy Name Week’s nine days, they will have chanted over one billion names and exceeded our goal.”
For those of us who haven’t taken a vow to chant sixteen rounds, and who can’t see ourselves cramming that many into our hectic days, don’t worry. Ekalavya suggests that those who don’t usually chant anything commit to between one and three rounds, while those already chanting sixteen daily can raise their quota to seventeen or more.
World Holy Name Week’s second initiative is a fifty-devotee Harinam (public chanting performance) on September 4th, the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s taking sannyasa. If that doesn’t sound like much, imagine every ISKCON temple holding one on the same day. “And fifty is the minimum requirement,” Ekalavya points out, beaming an ecstatic smile. “You’re more than welcome to organize one with 500, or even 5,000 devotees!”
The third initiative of World Holy Name Week is two four-hour kirtans, or call and response chanting sessions. But these ones, held on September 5th and 6th respectively, will not just be any kirtans. By the magic of the Internet, over fifty temples are expected to participate in the one kirtan—broadcast live on Krishna.com—with one temple doing the “call” and the others taking care of the “response.” Devotees interested in technical instructions on how to set up for the event in five minutes or less can email email@example.com.
“And your celebration of World Holy Name Week is not just limited to our three initiatives,” Ekalavya says. “We encourage individuals and temples around the world to arrange as many other different events as possible, such as street kirtans, temple kirtan marathons of two, six, twelve or twenty-four hours, japa retreats, japa seminars, Ratha Yatra processions, sacred food distribution, and distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books.”
Ekalavya and his fellow organizers also hope that all ISKCON gurus will join hands in a unified effort to encourage their disciples to participate in World Holy Name Week, and thereby please Srila Prabhupada.
Even before it has begun, the event is already inspiring faith in the holy name within people. Ekalavya’s aunt Mousie, who is terminally ill with cancer, has set up the World Holy Name Week’s website and has pledged to chant two rounds per day.
Ekalavya hopes that other people around the world will make commitments to the holy name from September 2nd to 11th, and find inspiration in Srila Prabhupada’s humble attitude. In his poem Markine Bhagavat Dharma, ISKCON’s founder wrote: “I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Krishna. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now, if You like, You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.”
Register your commitment for one or all of World Holy Name Week’s initiatives by filling in the “Contact Us” form on whnw.org and emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Posters and pamphlets are available for free download at the site to help devotees promote the event at their temple or location.
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