By Madhava Smulen
Since 2016, when it was launched as an offering to Srila Prabhupada for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary, the Fortunate People project has seen devotees film people chant the Hare Krishna mantra for the first time “for love and peace.”
The inspiration comes from a 1973 Srimad-Bhagavatam class by Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles: “We are requesting everyone, ‘Please chant, chant, chant.’ And they are replying, ‘Can’t, can’t.’ This is their misfortune. So still it is our duty to make all these misfortunate, unfortunate creatures fortunate. That is our mission.”
Now the Fortunate People App has been released on the Play Store for Android and the App Store for iPhones, making the idea of inducing others to chant as simple, interactive and attractive as possible.
Just by downloading the app, people are automatically registered as “ambassadors of love and peace,” and the chants they film on their phone appear on the scoresheet at http://fp-ambassadors.com/.
Since the beginning, the website has amassed over 15,000 videos of newcomers chanting Hare Krishna all over the world – including the UK, where it started. Now, the app is set to take things to a new level.
“As we all know, Srila Prabhupada really liked to hear the scores of how many books get distributed,” says the project’s mastermind Shaktyavesha Avatar Das. “Of course, the key goal of his books is to bring people closer to chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra. So we thought, why not bring the maha-mantra into the same realm, where it’s measurable, calculatable, and very quick to spread?”
Fortunate People got its direction on how to do this from Srila Prabhupada as well. “So go on with your organization for distribution of my books through press and other modern media and Krishna will certainly be pleased upon you,” he wrote to a disciple in November 1970. “We can use everything — television, radio, movies, or whatever there may be — to tell about Krishna.”
In modern times, of course, everyone lives online on the Internet.
“So we want to reach people where they are residing most,” Shaktyavesha Avatar says. “And that’s how this worldwide digital platform for spreading the maha-mantra online appeared.”
He quotes the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 7.37: “Lord Caitanya excused them all, and they merged into the ocean of devotional service, for no one can escape the unique loving network of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.”
Nowadays, Shaktyavesha says, no one can escape the network of the Internet. “So we are trying to make this network Krishna conscious. In the purport to that Chaitanya Charitamrita verse, Srila Prabhupada talks about how different devotees and teachers may have different methods, but their ultimate goal remains the same – to share the maha mantra far and wide.”
And the Fortunate People Ambassadors are certainly doing that. The top ranking ambassador Padmavati Dasi from Holland, for instance, has filmed over 600 videos, all of completely new people chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.
“They’re all kept on the site, which allows us to keep track of the overall number we want to offer to Srila Prabhupada,” Shaktyavesha says. “It also allows every devotee to remember all the people they reconnected with Lord Krishna, the Holy Name and their eternal self.”
All of these encounters are planting seeds, and some of them are already growing in remarkable ways.
Danny Foster, who appeared on the UK TV talent show Popstars and was one of the members of the pop group Hear’say, which sold nearly three million records worldwide, was one of the early “Fortunate People.” After receiving one of Prabhupada’s books and the Hare Krishna mantra from Shaktyavesha Avatar, he now maintains a steady practice of japa meditation, and recommends it to others.
Meanwhile Olga Dorovko, a Russian expat living in London, was so inspired when she met an FP Ambassador that she soon became a member of the core Fortunate People team, and has introduced many to the maha-mantra herself. She also began serving at the local ISKCON temple, and recently took initiation from Indradyumna Swami, receiving the name Manjari Gopika Dasi.
Bhakta Umayr, who is Muslim by birth, also first chanted with an FP Ambassador. Since then, he completed a number of study courses on Srila Prabhupada’s books at Bhaktivedanta Manor, and is now living in the London Bhakti Centre. He also personally donated towards creating the Fortunate People app, so that ambassadors all over the world could make more people fortunate like him.
“This app and this project isn’t just for our internal community,” Shaktyavesha Avatar points out. “We have strong faith that more and more people from around the world will join us in spreading chanting for love and peace. Eventually, we want to bring it to wider media channels, and become a massive international flash mob, where people chant to express the need that the world is in right now for more love and peaceful harmonizing energy. Long-term, our dream is to get one percent of the globe chanting Hare Krishna at least once.”
“If only 1% become devotees, that will change the whole world.” – Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Karandhara -- Tokyo 2 May, 1972
To download the app and become a Fortunate People Ambassador, visit http://fp-ambassadors.com/