At a meeting of the ISKCON Bureau of India on January 10th, Radha Jivan Das laid out his new plan for funding Srila Prabhupada’s passion project, the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, West Bengal.
In his half-hour presentation, the businessman and philanthropist told the twenty-two member executive body that while TOVP chairman Ambarisa Das has contributed $30 million to the project, he is now running out of funds.
After three-and-a-half decades of struggles to make Prabhupada’s vision a reality, the superstructure of the TOVP has been completed. But in order to have the temple ready for the Deities in 2016 as planned, another solution is needed to raise the remaining $30 million of the temple’s $60 million cost.
Radha Jivan, who is behind both the current Save the Yamuna campaign and a new temple in Las Vegas, is no stranger to creative fundraising ideas.
“Nityananda Prabhu predicted that there will be an Adbhuta Mandir in Mayapur,” he says. “Adbhuta means something very different. So I thought, let’s build this temple, this Adbhuta Mandir, in a very Adbhuta way. Usually temples are built by one or two very rich people. But now let the balance for this temple come from ordinary, grassroots devotees.”
Funds are required to cover the remaining 200,000 square feet of the 520,000 square foot temple.
Radha Jivan’s idea—which he proposed at the ISKCON Bureau meetings—is that 200,000 individual devotees and congregation members around the world each give just $150, sponsoring one square foot each.
“Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the Lord of the poor—He never associated with the rich,” says Radha Jivan. “He famously gave King Prataparudra a very hard time before He granted him an audience. So let the poor build a beautiful home for Mahaprabhu, where He will dance for the next 10,000 years.”
At the ISKCON Bureau meetings, Radha Jivan asked temple presidents to approach their congregation with the proposition. Indian temples have already agreed to raise enough from their congregations to cover 100,000 square feet. Small temples have accepted quotas of 1,000 square feet, medium temples have accepted 5,000, and large temples 10,000.
To spread awareness, announcements at Sunday Feasts and Rathayatra festivals will be bolstered by banners, leaflets, websites and a Facebook page.
In addition, ISKCON leaders and traveling sannyasis are being asked to promote the idea wherever they go.
It’s already catching like wildfire. In Mumbai, one thousand devotees attending a Bhagavat Saptaha event—where the Srimad-Bhagavatam is discussed over seven days—responded with enthusiasm, even though the Indian equivalent of $150 (Rs. 8,000) is no small change.
In Mayapur, organizers of the 2013 Kirtan Mela from March 11th to 15th will promote the one square foot campaign, praying to the Holy Name to allow the temple to be built.
In Alachua, USA, a recent presentation by Radha Jivan and Ambarisa Das was an unprecedented success, with devotees donating $40,000 in just one evening.
It’s clear that Mayapur is close to devotees’ hearts, as is Srila Prabhupada, who envisioned the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
“One eight-year-old girl approached me and gave me $150,” Radha Jivan says. “I asked her, ‘Where did you get this money from?’ She said, “This is my birthday money. I’m giving it to you.’ I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it.”
Inspired by stories like this, wealthier well-wishers are contributing their piece too. Some are donating one square meter for $1,500, instead of one square foot.
Top earners are donating $1 million—$5 million of the $30 million required has already been raised this way.
But whatever the amount, all are contributing with love and devotion, according to their ability.
At this rate, Radha Jivan hopes to raise $15 million this year, which will go towards construction materials and allow the construction of the TOVP to go forward immediately. The balance will be raised over the remaining years until 2016.
If the whole international devotee community works together, the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Madhava should move into Their new temple in 2016, ISKCON’s 50th anniversary. Any extra donations will go towards landscaping and the Vedic Planetarium itself.
“Srila Prabhupada’s last instruction was, ‘Your love for me will be shown by how well you cooperate with each other,’” Radha Jivan says. “So let us cooperate together to make this beautiful temple, and offer it as guru dakshina to our Srila Prabhupada in 2016.”
Radha Jivan recalls that Srila Prabhupada also once said, “Bombay is my office, Vrindavana is my home, and Mayapur is my place of worship.”
“So let us offer our Srila Prabhupada, on the 50th anniversary of his ISKCON, a place to worship,” Radha Jivan concludes. “With this kind of collective effort, I think we can make a wonderful temple of love.”
To donate towards the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, please visit: http://tovp.org/en/donate/how-to-give-a-donation