On Jan. 1 in the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, devotees gathered for a japathon – a ceremony often practiced on New Year’s Day as a welfare project or gift. The participants in the japathon chanted 305 rounds total, surpassing their goal of 289 rounds.
In each round, japa participants chant the name of God eight times for each of the 108 beads on their japa mala, which can be compared to the Christian rosary. The goal was 289 rounds, which would mean that one name of God, either Krishna or Rama, was chanted for each of the 250,000 inhabitants of Utah Valley.
According to Charu Das, who works at the temple, “Japa is a sanskrit word that means to speak softly and it specifically refers to … chanting your mantras for your own spiritual health. It’s also concerned welfare work for other living beings. That’s why we wanted to do it for the residents of Utah Valley.”
Japa is considered a gift, much like the Mormon practice of baptisms for the dead. Spiritual leaders and followers practice a spiritual act for those who aren’t able to or aren’t willing to do it for themselves.
Krishnas believe that saying the name of God – any god you find in your chosen scripture – is a way of becoming closer to him or her. “God is non-different from his name because he is absolute. In the real world, saying water doesn’t quench your thirst, but in the absolute world saying the name of God is the same as feeling God. … It’s a source of deep deep satisfaction.” Das said.
After the japathon, devotees had an aarti ceremony, in which a priest offers some of the most beautiful of God’s creations back to him while ringing a bell. Each of the five elements are represented in the ceremony, in which the priest gives earth (in the form of flowers), fire, and water back to God. The priest also sings, which represents the elements of air and ether.
This year’s japathon received such good feedback, the temple is considering making it an annual tradition. To learn more about the japathon and the Krishna temple, visit www.UtahKrishnas.com