Four Vaishnava Sampradayas Will Join ISKCON to Chant For Change
By: Madhava Smullen ISKCON News on June 18, 2015
The festival's poster
ISKCON and the spiritual leaders and members of the four bona fide Vaishnava Sampradayas are set to unite to chant the Holy Names during the international kirtan festival “Chant For Change” on July 17th and 18th.
The aim of the event is to bring together people from various races, faiths and nationalities to chant the Names of God, a process that is common to all faiths of the world.
An ISKCON Varnashrama Ministry project called IA Vedic (International Application of Vedic Concepts), whose Talasari village in Maharastra, India promotes simple living and high thinking, is organizing the event.
The four Vaishnava Sampradayas collaborating with ISKCON are the Sri Sampradaya, which originates from Srimati Laksmidevi; the Vallabha Sampradaya, which comes from Lord Siva; the Nimbarka Sampradaya, which comes from the four Kumaras, and the Madhva Sampradaya, which originates from Lord Brahma.
ISKCON itself also belongs to one of the many branches of the Madhva Sampradaya — the Brahma Madhava Gaudiya lineage founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century.
Members of the Chant for Change Team with Rakesh Goswami of the Vallabh Sampradaya
From the Madhva Sampradaya, acharyas Sri Vishvesha Tirtha Swami from the Pejavar Math and Sri Vidyadesha Tirtha Swami from the Palimar Math are supporting the project. From the Sri Sampradaya there are Andhra Pradesh acharya Chinna Jeeyar Swami and Tamil Nadu-based householder preacher Velukkudi Krishnan.
Meanwhile from the Vallabha Sampradaya there is Rakesh Goswami, president of the Sri Nathji temple in Nathdwara, Rajasthan. And from the Nimbarka Sampradaya there is Yugal Kishor Maharaj, based in Lord Krishna’s hometown of Vrindavana. ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission is also supporting the event.
“We wanted to find a way to bring the four sampradayas together,” says coordinator Nikhil Kotian. “And we thought that Harinama Sankirtan would be the best way. Because although all the sampradayas may not emphasize Nagar Sankirtan (chanting in public) as much as ISKCON does, their members are all aware of its importance and have sankirtan programs within their own communities.”
Leading up to the Chant For Change Festival will be a Family Sankirtan day on July 11th. On this day in India, all families in the general public will be encouraged through social media to have kirtan in their home, whether it be for just 15 minutes or half an hour, or several hours.
After that a multi-sampradaya 12 hour kirtan mela, or concert, will be held outside the Gundicha temple in Puri, Odisha, on July 17th, the auspicious occasion of Navakalevara.
With Vishvesha Tirtha Swami of the Madhva Sampradaya
During the Navakalevara ceremony, the Puri Jagannath Mandir’s Deities of Jagannath (Lord of the Universe), Baladeva and Subhadra Devi will be replaced with new Deities for the first time in 19 years.
The kirtan mela will be held in an open pandal opposite the Gundicha temple where Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra will stay for seven days during the Rathayatra celebrations following Navakalevara. Prominent kirtaniyas and leaders from the four Vaishnava sampradayas as well as ISKCON will chant at the mela.
Various other spiritual leaders and Indian dignitaries and celebrities will be invited to attend, and according to a February 2015 report from ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, nearly 200,000 members of the public are expected. The event will be held in cooperation with the tourism board of Odisha.
Next on July 18th – the day on which five million people are expected for the Jagannath Rathayatra in Puri – ISKCON temples in every continent have been requested to hold 12 or 24 hour kirtans.
“We say ISKCON because ISKCON is the most prominent Vaishnava organization internationally,” says Nikhil. “But it need not be only ISKCON or the four sampradayas. Wherever there is a Krishna or Vishnu temple, we are trying to reach out to them and ask them to have kirtan on that day.”
With Yugal Kishore Maharaj of the Kumar Sampradaya (far left)
As well as the 12 or 24 hour kirtans, several ISKCON centers are planning to hold their own Rathayatra parades on the same day, including Mira Road, Mumbai and ISKCON Kolkata.
“Vaishnavas understand that even subconsciously hearing chanting of the Holy Names or chanting them without knowing their importance has positive effects,” says Nikhil. “So we want to engulf each and every corner of the world with kirtan. The global situation right now, with global warming, greed, and terrorism, is very negative. Now people may not be able to give tangible evidence as to how chanting will create a positive effect, because it acts on the level of consciousness. But gradually, the chanting will definitely have a positive effect around the world.”
ISKCON devotees are so excited about joining with the four Vaishnava Sampradayas on this project that they are already in discussion about how to involve members and leaders of these sampradayas in ISKCON’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2016.
“And after that, we’re planning another collaboration for 2017, which will be the 1000th anniversary of the appearance of Ramanujacharya, a major acharya in all Vaishnava lines,” says Nikhil.