2020 Annual Report

2020 Annual Report

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Namaste Precious Friends:

Divine grace palpably enveloped us throughout 2020 as we responded to unfolding challenges to making our esteemed institution sustainable and yet charitable. We cannot aggressively approach meditation; likewise, we cannot fearfully approach crisis. Both need calmness, which is bred through patience. As we learnt this past year, fortitude yields patience. When individuals like ourselves are being squeezed and challenged, we learn not to give in to pressure nor give in to the fear. Instead, we rise to the challenge and continue to serve under the divine guidance of our extraordinary monks.

Grassroots participation allowed the Nonprofit organization to continue to serve uninterrupted throughout unsettling and unpredictable times. Together we begin 2021 hand-in-hand with hearts connected. The lessons that we learnt while making our esteemed organization stronger will stay with us. We are now better prepared for harder times.

Along with so many others in Southern California who went into lockdown, we were forced by local regulations to close the Hansavedas Meditation Centre and offices from 13th March to 1st June 2020. However, our hearts, prayers and devotional service to earnest seekers continued to remain open. While the shelter-in-place order was enforced, we sought to provide uninterrupted solace and moral strength by immediately connecting with our community through live programming. In such a time of need, we remember God’s grace and acknowledge the futile nature of material vices – and instead, embrace the fruits of staying connected with our satguru, His Holiness Swami Vidyadhishananda, the spiritual founder of our Nonprofit.

Since this past summer, the publications on our Hansavedas Academy mobile app learning platform (hansavedas.academy) have expanded at a rapid pace. Of the 270 audio and video recordings that have been added since the inception of our multimedia platform in 2016, over 100 were added in 2020 alone. Our mobile app now reaches over 280 subscribers in 30 countries. Our initial goal of reaching 500 subscribers continues to gain momentum, and our guided meditation recordings have cumulatively been played nearly 110,000 times and attest to the extraordinary value of our online content to seekers worldwide.

This exquisite collection of wisdom teachings is produced at the highest quality possible such that while listening one feels they are at the feet of our beloved living saint, His Holiness Swami Vidyadhishananda. We seamlessly completed upgrading the backend of our online multimedia platform to a new hosting service for ease of use by our devotees, which is now the Hansavedas Academy.

This was a much-needed change to a steadfast platform that has been the supporting technology for fellowships and group meditation in City Centres around the world – enabling our communities to continue participating in the wisdom teachings through online learning and practice. Our guided meditation recordings posted on our Academy were played over 35,000 times in 2020.

In the absence of in-person events, online fellowship is a way for us to remain connected with the lineage of meditation masters and our saintly siddha monk who is present among us. Our devotees availed themselves of the many opportunities to remain connected. Our Hansavedas Meditation Centre in Santa Barbara anchored an unprecedented 74 online fellowships. An additional 290 online fellowships were hosted by our City Centres in Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey, whose blossoming coordinated efforts provided these additional opportunities for our sangha to remain connected.

Indeed, in 2020 our esteemed platform provided:

    • 384 fellowships – an average of more than one per day
      • 20 in-person fellowships (1st Jan – 12th March)
      • 364 online fellowships (13th March – 31st Dec)
    • 79 fellowships guided by HH Swami Vidyadhishananda – over 1½ per week on average
    • 32 special fellowships (including workshops and retreats)
    • 81% of our public events were offered free
    • A total of 11,071 participants attended fellowships
    • A total of 481 special public events have been hosted since the inception of our Nonprofit, which is an average of 2.6 special fellowships per month.

Remaining operational during this time required swift action from our volunteer Board of Directors, who quickly applied for grants and funding through the CARES Act. Our Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grant and Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan have both been received and forgiven, totaling $43,600. This helped to support our operational needs in 2020. We have a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan of $150,000 outstanding and will repay this when the situation improves.

The year 2020 was a pivotal time for Hansavedas, in which we precipitated technological developments that were already underway – responding earnestly to the many requests of our seekers. Our Nonprofit hosted its first live broadcast on Facebook during the lockdown period, holding seekers worldwide in a divine embrace. During these live events, His Holiness guided meditations to attune our inner focus, and taught a healing protection Sanskrit mantra that harnesses the power to invoke inner strength and moral courage. Devotees around the world participated synchronously, and with this momentum of participation these events became a month-long series of live transmissions via Facebook. The wisdom shared during these broadcasts supported participants in maintaining a positive attitude with faith in God and Guru’s love and protection.

Our livestream fellowships withstood the disruption caused by local ordinances and continued without fail throughout 2020. Among these divine moments of blissful respite with our satguru were extraordinary revelations pertinent to the current times. His Holiness revealed to us insights on the global transformation as interpreted from Vedic Jyotisha, the mysterious whereabouts of the greatest Siddhas – Sri Tryambaknath Mahavatar Babaji and Maharshi Mahatapa, and the magnificent heritage of vegetarianism as a foundational spiritual principle. Dissemination of such wisdom is attainable only by the discourse from a great seer.

Also held via livestream was a special Memorial Fellowship honouring His Holiness Swami Atmananda Giri, dearly known as Prabhuji. As part of the Monastic Council, he helped structure the foundational curriculum and safeguard the Hansavedas Maṭha – a rare books library situated in the holy city of Varanasi, India. His brother monks are still adjusting to this colossal loss. Prabhuji’s presence and the gift of wisdom will carry on as we build upon his legacy, both in India and in the West.

Among the many technological firsts of 2020, our esteemed dharma platform hosted the Guru Purnimā Full Moon Retreat online, enabling devotees and their families to gather from around the world on this most auspicious occasion to honour our beloved spiritual lineages. The retreat was ceremoniously opened with a message in Sanskrit and Hindi by His Holiness Swami Sharadananda from Varanasi.

The weekend retreat wove together a truly global participation. From the courtyards of ashrams in India came the sublime chanting of Vedic priests from our sister institutions; from living rooms across our City Centres of Houston, New Jersey, Chicago and Santa Barbara, Guru Vandana was offered. With the capacity to broadcast the ceremonial offerings with a close-up perspective, many devotees wrote afterwards that it was a highly immersive experience.

On the birth anniversary of the head of our meditation lineages, celebrated as Sri Krishna Janmastami, we hosted a meaningful two-day online workshop on higher yoga and yoga philosophy. Workshop participants had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a devotional understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead following a unique Q&A-style session. Before the workshop began, participants were invited to complete an online quiz, through which they could imbibe chaste spiritual philosophy of the Sanskrit heritage by attempting to answer the questions. His Holiness then answered each question during the online workshop. In addition to sublime devotional music and an extraordinary teaching by His Holiness about the nature of our hearts, a complete yoga-vinyāsa class was guided by Sadhvi Girija during the morning session.

Also held online for the first time was our annual Sattwadharman Benefit. Our sangha made the most of the circumstances to come together around a new format for this annual benefit. Over 40 magnificent works of art were displayed up close and personal – on screens at home – and, in a new feature this year, devotees were invited to learn in-depth about the curatorial and production process of the Fellowship Archives in a documentary featuring His Holiness Swami Vidyadhishananda.

Proceeds from the online art auction are sustaining the 100 boarding students at traditional accelerated learning schools situated on the premises of our sister institutions in Varanasi, Haridwar, and Prayagraj. Sattwadharman attendees witnessed the students’ daily life and their spiritual progress preserving the Vedic tradition and serving the greater community. The feedback from participants around the world was overwhelmingly positive; devotees who are typically unable to travel such a long distance to attend the event in person cherished the special opportunity to experience the virtual event live.

Thanks to new contributions to the property fund during Sattwadharman and throughout 2020, we have raised 83% of our $1M goal for a down payment on our Nonprofit’s first property. With this goal now within close reach, we have intensified our search for a suitable property by adding a specialty broker to our property search team. We are now more hopeful than ever that the sacred place to establish this citadel of dharma shall emerge. Details about our efforts and progress to procure a property can be found at our Himalayan Legacy capital initiative website: hansavedas.org/property-purchase.

Creating a meaningful online learning experience in lieu of our annual in-person Meditation Retreats was an opportunity for breaking new ground on our online education platform. The hundreds of hours that went into creating the first Online Meditation Retreat – held for our Layayoga initiates – have paved the way for future online retreats. For the first time ever, every single active initiate was able to convene for the annual retreat – a testament to the potential for technology to serve humanity in positive ways.

With this momentum from the Meditation Retreat, we are expanding our accelerated online learning platform, Hansavedas Sambhala Curriculum – a structured graduate-level university coursework for learning and practicing spiritual disciplines that celebrates the advent of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in human form, Lord Kalkideva. In addition to our monks and yogic adepts, the curriculum will endeavour to present expert chanters, devotional singers, music maestros, professors of Sanskrit language and Ayurveda. With diligent work, we will see the release of a few introductory courses in the first half of 2021.

Our collective effort on Giving Tuesday to obtain matching funds from Facebook resulted in more than we could have hoped for: 45% of donor contributions received matching funds, based on Facebook’s matching structure in which 100% of each contribution was matched for the first $2M transacted, and 10% of each contribution was matched for the subsequent $7M transacted. This matching structure was different than in previous years and would have presented a greater challenge to our efforts were it not for the expanded grassroots participation by devotees – the number of donor participants increased from 210 donors in 2019 to 297 donors in 2020. Even though only $14K were matched due to the new tiered structure, we were nonetheless able to raise a total of $114K during the Giving Tuesday event, including the matched funds.

Giving Tuesday is part of our year-end holy giving prayer circle, Sattwapathin, during which devotees request special prayers for their family and loved ones. These requests for blessings and healing prayers are being continuously offered to the Meditation Lineage Altar by His Holiness.

Throughout this tumultuous year, we did not forgo our diligent metrics reporting. Our efforts were rewarded yet again with the annual Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar’s platform for reporting on US-based Nonprofits. This accolade is only awarded to the top 0.6% of the 1.84 million US-based Nonprofits reporting to GuideStar. Indeed, our Nonprofit is the only Sanskrit-based organization disseminating the Higher Yoga and Vedic dharma to receive this highest accolade for operational transparency. Our Nonprofit’s profile page provides the details of our metrics: guidestar.org/profile/20-3478668

Rooted in the wisdom teachings of our noble platform, our Nonprofit remains unwaveringly committed to spiritual upliftment in the face of what has been undeniably a most challenging time for all of us. Grassroots participation is what binds us together and sees us through these challenges – let us continue to nurture our Nonprofit in the following ways:

1. Remember our noble Nonprofit in your prayers
2. Follow the articles, posts and publications on our website. Our web articles, events and announcements are now regularly posted at facebook.com/hansavedas
3. Subscribe to Hansavedas Academy online learning platform and use the app.

Thank you to all our supporters whose dedicated contribution and benevolent participation continue to support us in these challenging times.

We, the ardent servers,

Minakshi Acharya                                                    Radhika Pathy
Secretary                                                                   Treasurer

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