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Chant For Dharma: An Experimental Fund Raising Effort To Support The New Hampshire Hindu Temple

K. Arvind

The Hindu Temple of New Hampshire (HTNH - http://www.hindutemplenh.org) located in Nashua, NH, has been growing from a modest beginning in 2008 to a stage today where it is about to acquire its own property. To successfully cross this milestone, the Temple needs to raise $350000 in the next few weeks (within 30 days of signing the purchase & sale agreement).

As part of its efforts to raise funds to support this purchase, HTNH volunteers are experimenting with a novel fundraising approach. Many of us have supported various charitable causes such as feeding hungry children, finding a cure for cancer, etc. by participating in fundraising drives such as "Walk for Hunger", "Bike for Cancer" etc. Even if there were sufficient time to organize something like this, walking or biking doesn't seem like a natural fit for this cause.

A group of volunteers who have invested some of their valuable time in learning and practicing the proper chanting of various Vedic hymns have come forward to use this skill and expertise to raise funds for supporting the Hindu Temple of New Hampshire, an institution where Vedic traditions are revered and nurtured. Many of these volunteers have served as volunteer Ritwiks for the HTNH, and other Temples in this area.

Vedic chanting has musical qualities, and delivers its magic through the use of only 3 of the 12 tones in an octave. As many people who practice or have listened to Vedic chanting can attest from their personal experience, and as described in the Mantra Pushpam published by the Ramakrishna Mission, "when the mantras are chanted with intonations, a divine atmosphere is created with holy vibrations all around". "The holy vibrations of Vedic chanting will produce immense purifying effect". His Holiness Kanchi Paramacharya explains that the sounds of the Vedas "produce in our nadis as well as in the atmosphere vibrations that are salutary not only to our own self but to the entire world".

The "Chant for Dharma" drive is a novel fundraising initiative that benefits the donor as well as the HTNH. A donor can sponsor an hour of Vedic chanting by pledging a contribution to the HTNH. The chanting will be performed with reverence and authenticity right in the donor’s home by one or more members of the volunteer Ritwik team. The patron can enjoy the twin benefits of experiencing the sacred vibrations in their home, as well as the special satisfaction of participating in the sacred task of building a temple in their proximity ("Devalaya kruthe punyam") that has the potential to have a positive effect on all our lives and on succeeding generations. Children will have the benefit of being exposed to an important aspect of our religious culture in their homes. HTNH benefits by receiving the donated funds and by the spread of awareness about Vedic chanting.

The campaign is designed to keep the demands on the sponsor as well as the volunteer Ritwiks to the minimum. The chanting event at the sponsor's home will be kept simple (minimal preparations or work on the part of the sponsor) and short (no more than an hour) without compromising reverence or authenticity. Sponsorship will require no special preparation on the host’s part, other than arranging seating space (on the floor) for the chanting team, and setting up of a temporary  shrine (an icon of a deity with a lit lamp),  and an hour or so of the host’s time. The chanting will be drawn from a variety of Veda Mantras (chosen by the volunteer Ritwik according to his repertoire) including Sri Rudram, Chamakam, Purusha Suktham, Narayana Suktham, Vishnu Suktham, Durga Suktham, Sri Suktham, Bhoo Suktham, Neela Suktham, Pancha Shanthi and Ganapathi Atharvasheersham, thus promising an hour of delight to the ears and bliss to the mind.

The underlying theme of the event will be loving, serving, and giving, and to affirm sacred principles enshrined in the Vedas, such as Sathya (truthfulness), Dharma (righteousness), Shanthi (peace), Prema (love), Ahimsa (non-violence), Seva (service), Bhakthi (devotion), and the oneness and welfare of all (“Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavanthu”). The volunteer Ritwik serves the sponsor and those assembled, who in turn serve the Temple by making a donation, which in turn serves the entire community. The attitude of the Ritwik is that of giving the valuable gift of Sravanam to the sponsor and those assembled, with a feeling of gratitude towards the sponsor for hosting the event, rather than to take a donation from the sponsor. The attitude of the sponsor is to contribute to the common good of all by hosting the event and making a donation according to his ability. It is nobody’s intent to take from others, and everybody’s intent to give for the common good of all. When everyone focuses on giving, rather than receiving, there is peace.

This is a novel and experimental approach to raising funds for a Temple, but has the potential to generate significant funds for the cause it supports, if embraced and supported well by the community.  For example, if 11 Ritwiks sign up for 11 hours (3 hours per week, may be over a weekend ) each month (the number 11 seems a natural unit for Ritwiks who have participated in Ekadasha Rudram chanting), a one month period can generate about $12000 assuming a sponsor  donates $100 (of course, what a sponsor decides to donate is entirely up to them – no amount is considered small, as the story of the squirrel who brought a few small rocks to help Sri Rama build the bridge to Lanka illustrates). If sponsors invite their friends who also contribute a similar amount, this can multiply several fold depending on the number of donors per event. If the approach holds up to its potential, it can be sustained over the long term to raise funds for other similar causes, while providing a useful service to the community.

We are taught that "Righteousness protects those who protect it ("Dharmo Rakshathi Rakshithaha"). Will you help the HTNH raise funds by sponsoring an hour of Vedic chanting at your home or neighborhood and receive the blessing of Sravanam (exposure to the sacred sounds of Veda Mantras) as an immediate reward? As was mentioned earlier, sponsorship will not extensive preparations on your part, and no more than about an hour or so of your time. Given the limited time available, we may have to limit ourselves to one or two homes in a neighborhood, and so may end up having to do parallel sponsorship congregating in one or two homes in a neighborhood. If there is sufficient interest, we may be able to visit individual homes at a later time.

A sponsor may choose the amount to contribute to sponsor the chant according to his ability (“yathaa shakthi”). The checks may be sent directly to HTNH. The HTNH is 501c(3) certified (Tax id: 30-0467085) and donations to the Temple are tax-deductible. Please note that "Chant for Dharma" is a community service initiative by volunteer Ritwiks who are donating their own time for this purpose.

If you are interested in being a sponsor of "Chant for Dharma", please contact Arvind at k_arvind@yahoo.com.
If you wish to make a direct donation, please check out the Temple Property Purchase Campaign web site at http://www.indiegogo.com/htnh-property?a=1145997&i=emal. If you wish to send a donation by mail, please make your check payable to HTNH and send it to PO Box 7041, Nashua, NH 03060.

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