As many as 10,000 people from multiple faiths and backgrounds are set to sing God’s names together in what could be the biggest chant gathering in American history on October 8th, exactly one month before the U.S. presidential election.
Organized by second generation ISKCON devotees, the free event “Chant 4 Change” will take place in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke his famous “I have a dream” speech, forever changing America’s history.
And Chant 4 Change hopes to change history too.
“The noise of this year’s presidential election is loud and divisive, and we’re facing so many challenges with terrorism and racism in this country,” says organizer and kirtan artist Gaura Vani. “These problems are not going to be solved by one side of the equation, or one agenda. We have to have all hands on deck. And to do that, we have to be able to see each other as brothers and sisters beyond the designations of the body such as race, religion, politics, economic status, gender, and nationality.”
The best way to do this – to “water the root of the tree,”— as Gaura Vani says, is to chant God’s names together in call and response, creating a vibration of peace, faith, love, and unity in diversity.
“Call and response chanting creates an environment where everyone is listening to each other,” says Chant 4 Change PR manager Stacey Deloy. “Right now everyone’s shouting and no one’s listening to each other. We want to pause for a second and combat the divisive message through love and music and community.”
Chant 4 Change organizers like Visvambhar Sheth are hoping to enlist an impressive roster of famous musicians, thought leaders, social activists, and spiritual and religious leaders so that they can harness some of the media attention Washington D.C. will be getting and focus it on a more positive message – an alternative to all the negativity.
The first Chant 4 Change event, held during Obama's inauguration in 2009
The event will begin at 1pm and end at 11pm, with each group or artist chanting from the stage for half an hour.
Kirtan will be a major presence, with The Mayapuris, The Hanumen, and the Juggernauts all singing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and other chants to Lord Krishna. Huge screens will display the words so that the crowd can chant along, and artists from the broader kirtan world like Jai Uttal and MC Yogi are also set to join them.
Meanwhile other artists from traditions that involve a call and response element will be singing to God in their own way. Grammy-winning gospel group Sweet Honey In the Rock will be performing, as well as other groups from Christian, Jewish, Sufi and other traditions.
“Any nomenclature which is meant for the Supreme Lord is as holy as the others because they are all meant for the Lord,” ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada writes in his Srimad Bhagavatam purports. “Such holy names are as powerful as the Lord, and there is no bar for anyone in any part of the creation to chant and glorify the Lord by the particular name of the Lord as it is locally understood. They are all auspicious, and one should not distinguish such names of the Lord as material commodities.”
Gaura Vani will be organizing and performing kirtan at the event
Similarly, in a revolutionary speech Pope Francis said, “Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths. This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people, as nations, and as a world bound by faith. Together, we can bring about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a state is respect each others beliefs, for we are all children of God regardless of the name we choose to address him by.”
In between the half-hour sessions of chant, Andrew Tanner, called “The Ambassador for the Yoga Alliance,” Radhanath Swami, author of the recent New York Times bestseller Journey Within, several Buddhist leaders, and other religious leaders and social and political activists will share their perspectives on how to change the world with peace and cooperation.
With thousands from America and around the world set to participate, Gaura Vani feels that Chant 4 Change is a unique opportunity for ISKCON to present Krishna consciousness and its universal message of singing God’s names in a relevant way at a historic time and place.
“This event has the potential to establish ISKCON as a cultural leader in America, show it is the kind of organization that sets a relevant agenda for our times, and reinvigorate Krishna consciousness for another generation of Americans,” he says.
Therefore he’s asking ISKCON devotees and temples across America to help create the best event possible by attending and contributing energy and financial support.
“It’s a free event with no major organization or sponsor behind it,” he says. “We want this to be sponsored by the people. We need to raise $100,000 and are asking everyone to donate $1000 to make it happen. So please come to Washington, give $100, participate in the chanting, and be part of this new dream for not just America, but the world.”
To pledge to attend, and for more information, please visit Chant4Change.com.
To donate, visit https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/chant4change--2[ chant-for-change ] [ gaura-vani ] [ washington-dc ]