for chakra.org on Jan. 21, 2011
The devotees and members of the Phoenix (Arizona, USA) temple held a Harinam mantra group meditation on New Year's day. This auspicious event began at 5am, with the participants attending the Mangal Arotik ceremony. After Tulasi Puja, all the assembled vaisnavas began to chant the Mahamantra on their japa beads. The original goal was to chant at least 500,000 names of the Lord.
As the sun rose in the east through the large temple windows, heralding the beginning of the first day of the New Year, the devotees continuously chanted, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Most of the members attended the complete morning program.
The chanting continued throughout the day. There were participants as young as 7 years old in the group. Everyone felt that this was a very auspicious beginning to the New Year. Several members commented that they didn't realize how nice it is to come to the temple in the morning, and attend the morning program. I asked one member how he felt after chanting. He commented, "I feel really good. The Mantra is in my mind; no more bad thoughts".
The enthusiasm for the chanting of the Mahamantra kept increasing throughout the day. By the end of the day 1,415,232 names of the Lord had been chanted, by 143 participants. Almost three times the original goal. Everyone involved felt this was a very auspicious beginning to the New Year, and many members vowed to continue chanting during the rest of the year. This program was spearheaded by temple president, Prema Dhatri Dasi. She plans on continuing this program with a group Harinam mantra meditation on the first Saturday of each month. Many families are already chanting 16 rounds, and preparing for initiation.
The night before, on New Year's eve, a group of devotees accompanied by Ganapati Swami, went on Harinam sankirtan. They tolerated subfreezing temperatures, which are unusual for the Arizona climate. They chanted and distributed books for several hours, until Midnight, in an area where thousands of people gathered to celebrate the New Year.