Sankirtan is saving us!

Manidhara Das
29 Nov 2023

All glories to Sankirtan, the congregational distribution of Srila Prabhupadas books! All glories to Sankirtan devotees!

Here are some words of inspiration for all those who are already part of or plan to become part of Srila Prabhupada's book distribution mission:

Sankirtan is saving us from:

Gliding back towards the previous habituation to indulge in activities based on our own senti-mental perception, teaching us how to control the mind and the senses.
Where else could our senses go when we try to give a book to a conditioned soul so as to focus on our present activity, the distribution of Srila Prabhupadas books? They will try, if not yet controlled, to roam around, but Krsna Himself gives us the power to bring them back and burn our unchaste, uncontrolled desires in the fire of sankirtan yajna.
Something yogis tried to do for many life times, a sankirtan devotee can achieve in one week on book distribution.

Sankirtan will burn our dormant material desires, and from their ashes arises a pure spiritual desire to please Srila Prabhupada, and so automatically to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No other attempt to purify our material desires is as potent and imminent as the moment we take Srila Prabhupadas books into our hands and try to distribute them. Regardless of the mind still remembering our past activities and our previous desires, it has no chance when we stand up and forcefully approach the obstinately conditioned soul. He can only reflect one desire: to disseminate what we got, Srila Prabhupadas books, the ultimate antidote for maya's poison being spread by the demoniac class of men so eagerly.

It is here on sankirtan that we learn the necessity of regulating our lives according to sadhana and the principles we must follow, but it is also here on sankirtan that we face all-the-time unpredictable situations, where we learn that devotional service is not just based on strict adherance to the principles and regulations, but finally, it is based on our heartfelt desire to never return to maya's domain and to fully surrender to the shelter Srila Prabhupada and Krsna offer in the form of the Holy Name and the instructions being given by Them. Sometimes sankirtan devotees appear to sadhana practicing kanistha adhikaris as a sort of avadhuta uncontrollable group of devotees, but such critics can be assured that the sankirtan activity requires firm sadhana while simultaneously teaching us not to depend on it. As Srila Prabhupada pointed out, "Sadhana is needed to push the car." Once the car is driving, not that much pushing is needed. To what degree the driver is already fully under the control of the Supreme Driver and, herewith, can drive on its own has to be seen individually. As Krsna established in the Bhagavad Gita, the perfection of life is to become a tool in His lotus hands and even succeed in doing so for a brief moment. Once experiencing such „freedom“ in total dependancy on Krsna's mercy, such blessed sankirtan devotees find nothing higher than that. The ecstasy of becoming a smooth tool in Krsna's hands can be experienced even by beginners who try to distribute Srila Prabhupadad's books. The process of book distribution is so powerful, and the flow of mercy is instant.

Sankirtan devotees become strong, self-standing individuals, preachers who have assimilated the siddhanta, the essence of Srila Prabhupada's teachings, and strong servants of the mission of the Lord who do not allow themselves to be divided by those who cannot see the forest because they got lost amongst so many trees. Maya can make the unimportant important and the important unimportant, even in the name of the Vedas.
To cast away „the flowery language of the Vedas“ is recommended even by the Supreme Lord Himself, who is the origin of all the Vedas, as much as to cast away all the ritualistic performances of religious rituals. Such a clear choice of priorities is only available to those who know the essence of Srila Prabhupada's mission—the distribution of his books.

It is these books who will remain as testimony to our preaching; after all, we will all leave our bodies and move on to our destined locations. The books will stay, and we will go. And once planted, these seeds of bhakti can never be removed or eliminated.
When will the time come when they bear some fruit? This is not for us to consider.
There are more favourable times for these seeds to sprout and more difficult times due to the dominance of demons. Finally, Krsna's prediction must come true.
When and how that happens is up to His judgement, not ours. We should only try to become tools in His hands. Tools do not have the power to be architects; tools can only serve the architect to build the structure as he plans.

Any attempt by a tool to become independent results in chaos and destruction.
Krsna's tools are living powerful tools with their minor independence and the choices they can make. When misusing such minor independence by dint of the speculation described above, the construction side becomes a madhouse where digging machines drive in an uncontrolled way around, destroying everything in their way.
Srila Prabhupada warned us that the only ones who can spoil his movement are us.

Sankirtan is the final remedy for our uncontrollable independence; it always forces us to come back to Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet, as without his mercy, no book can be distributed. There is no other qualification needed to have a sincere desire to become useful to Srila Prabhupada. Sankirtan is not for „expert salesmen." Sankirtan is for sincere devotees who took to heart the urgent call of their guru to do the needful.

Srila Prabhupada got carried away in transcendetal ecstasy when he saw his disciples submerged in the bliss of book distribution.

In a letter to Uttamasloka Prabhu from December 11, 1975, he writes:

"I read your Sankirtan news letter with great relish. Europe and America are in great danger; the Hare Krishna Movement is enveloping them. The sankirtan devotees are very dear to Krishna. Because you are doing the field work of book distribution, Krisha immediately recognised them as true servants. Just like during wartime, a farm boy or ordinary clerk who goes to fight for his country on the front immediately becomes a national hero for his sincere effort. So Krishna immediately recognises a preacher of Krishna consciousness who takes all risks to deliver his message.
 It is called Dhira bratta-determination. These boys and girls are mahatmas.

mahatmanas tu mam partha
daivim prakritim asritah
bhajantyananya manaso,
jnatva bhutadim avyayam.

“O son of Pritha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” This verse is applicable here; if these boys were of material nature, they could not take so much risk; they are mahatma; they are real mahatma, not that long-beard mahatma. They are unwavering in their determination, dhira bratta.
All glories to the American devotees!”

Indeed, being a real devotee is easy once one is showered with the blessings of the spiritual master. No amount of self-invented or self-imagined „ecstasy“ can compensate for that. Sankirtan devotees are never endangerment by the concept of vimukta maninah, even though they may think themselves already liberated. He is liberated by the power of the mercy of his guru, not by the power of his mind.

Book distribution opens our eyes, so we start to discriminate. Not amalgate in mayavadi style, as sometimes propagated by "universal preachers of oneness in love and unity" and see the difference between demon and devotee. The difference between kanistha adhikari (even being seemingly engaged in devotional service, the first symptom of kanistha adhikari is that he can NEVER distribute Srila Prabhupada's books as he lacks the faith and merciful attitude towards conditioned souls that such activity requires), madhyam adhikari (who is most eager to fulfil the desire of Srila Prabhupada to save the conditioned souls), and uttama adhikari (who never propagates his status as a top-class devotee by dint of institutional designations or collection of unqualified followers) who never demands authority but commands authority by dint of his purity. He may descend to the level of madhyam adhikari in order to teach us how to preach to conditioned souls.
His preaching is most effective as he is capable of injecting his unflinching faith into the hearts of others, raising them from their conditioned state to the level of madhyama adhikari by dint of his instructions.

For those operating in youthful bodies, sankirtan is a true remedy for their natural youthful passion. It is only here that one can sustain life in celibacy, as the fire of sankirtan yajna automatically burns all the unwanted lusty desires in the heart.
It is here we find male and female-bodied devotees meeting in ecstasy, forgetting their bodily differences while simultaneously following the vaisnava rules of conduct.
To behold the elimination of our bodily differences and see the pure souls raising above the level of bodily conditioning while distributing Srila Prabhupadas books is amazing to witness. It is here that we give up our embarassing discussions of macho-male versus feministic-female and, liberated from such bodily concoctions, we can truly meet and be united while engaged in the mission of Srila Prabhupada. He opened the doors for everybody, but his invitation is not as unconditional as some may believe.

Even the initiation process was perceived by him as possible only in the frame of the service to the mission of the guru parampara.

As he writes in his letter to Sudama das on April 11, 1971:

“…Initiated members are for managing the temples and preaching work, but our programme is to invite people to our feasts. Let them hear our philosophy, dance, and chant. That is the basic philosophy of preaching work.…”

Personally, I cannot stop counting my blessings since joining the 1972 Srila Prabhupadas movement, a movement where the initiation and practice of Krsna Consciousness were automatically connected to missionary activities.

Sankirtan book distribution doesn't facilitate mundane piety but brings us immediately to the core of Krsna's plan to rescue the conditioned souls from maya's grip.
Some may argue that it is not possible for a not yet qualified medical man to administer medicine in an effective way. Srila Prabhupada made it simple:
“If the building is on fire, nobody asks much about the qualification of the water supply fire brigade man. The main task is to put the fire out.” That was his policy.
How else could he be so tolerant in regard to his initial disciples? He recruited from a group of entirely hallucinated LSD intoxicated hippies and often bisar excentric individuals who had only two things in common: the absolute disguasty with the present main stream demon-controlled society and the willingness to accept entirely opposing values in the form of the four regulative principles. Once on sankirtan, these disqualifications became covered by the transcendental power beyond our estimation that Srila Prabhupada manifested. It was by his mercy that we were raised on a platform that we would have no chance to reach otherwise. He gave us the credit to become deacent human beings and authorised preachers of Krsna Consciousness, a credit that has to be cherished and protected from those who would like to misuse it for their own benefit.
Such chastity towards Srila Prabhupadas heritage can be developed by those who distribute Srila Prabhupada's books and see the flow of amazing mercy coming down from the spiritual realm in the form of these books. Never mind that the recipients are not qualified; the mercy is coming anyway. Such is the policy of Srila Prabhupada, who, in a mirror-like fashion, reflects the mercy of Lord Caitanya upon the falling wreched renegates of the Kali Yuga age.

Book distribution teaches us the real art of detachment, as any form of attachment to a result, based on the misconception that we are still the doer, is instantly rectified.
As Srila Prabhupada points out, a sankirtan devotee comes quickly under the protection of daivi prakriti, the internal energy of the Lord, and herewith his shortcomings become swiftly corrected.
Only here can we truly realise that we are mere messengers, delivering the mail regardless of the response of the recipient. A postman is doing his job daily, regardless of the response from those he delivers the mail to. If listening to the conditioned souls, we should stop book distribution immediately, as nobody invited us to come, nobody expects us to preach, and hardly anybody has a plan to purchase our books, and we do it anyway.

As Srila Prabhupada pointed out again and again, our missionary activities are for the benefit of the public, regardless of her awareness of what we are actually doing.
But that's only our secondary consideration and motivation. Our priority is to please the spiritual master, guru parampara and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, regardless of the approval or not of the public.
That makes in the eyes of kanistha adhikaris or mundane people the sankirtan devotees look like when being arogant, but "devotee is not obliged", commented Srila Prabhupada, giving himself as an example: “Nobody from you invited me to come here, and I came on the order of my spirital master anyway."
Such is the dhira bratta logic of a sankirtan devotee. Nobody can stop him; only he himself can stop the flow of mercy coming down to him through his self-inflicted doubts.

The amount of mercy to be collected on sankirtan book distribution is not possible to imagine. How many devotees I met in my life who told me that “without the sankirtan training, I could have never become even a deacent grhasta, a family man.”
How many women I used to train on sankirtan whom I met later on when they became mothers and wives of their husbands, who told me, “I never had such ecstatic days like on sankirtan!”

The mercy collected in this way never goes in vain. It makes us, in Krsna's view, trustworthy for getting the right intelligence to conduct our activities, who may often be bordering on kama misra bhakti, compromised devotional service, a mercy that prevents us from being finally dragged down by the ferocious current of maya pushing everybody to the lower regions of the universe. The book distribution activity is so dear to Krsna that He will not allow such a recipient of His mercy to get enchanted by maya, even at the cost of administering some mercy to his devotee, so he gets the point and grips even more firmly to His lotus feet. Whatever works Krsna will apply to safe such a dear devotee to finally come back to Him. The ecstacy of book distribution is so strong that devotees standing on the street with his books in their hands used to pray to Srila Prabhuoada for increased desire to go back home to Godhead. His answer was firm: “You don't have to pray for that. You are already there.”

Such is the position of a truly dedicated sankirtan devotee. But even for those who perform book distribution in the form of sastra dhan, simply help financially to distribute Srila Prabhupadas books. For those burdened with so many duties family life brings about, for those who try to escape their lonely existence, for all those who only try to become part of Srila Prabhupada's book distribution by any means available, a huge load of mercy is ready to come down on their heads and make them elligible to be saved from maya's gripp.

Even one book being distributed is a valuable contribution to Srila Prabhupada's mission, as we never know where the book will go or how it will find its right recipient. Even one single book can save so many. This was proven in the past, and it can be demonstrated even today. Of course, the more books we distribute, the greater the chance that some of these seeds of bhakti will bring about the desired fruit.
It was proven that when book distribution becomes a priority, more devotees automatically join. Quite contrary to some sceptics who think that “we have to preach to intelligent people only and not disturb the public by street book distribution” (Srila Prabhupada used to call such critics "rascals"), such home-made "intellectuals“ forget that Srila Prabhupada gave an entirely different definition to the word "intelligence" as some academically polluted individuals may perceive.
It's the position of the heart and not the brain that is the final requirement for becoming part of Srila Prabhupada's movement; even “some brain is also required," commented Srila Prabhupada.

But that brain will be given in a descending way by the flow of mercy coming from above and not in the form of the empiric research academic "arm chair speculators" may like us to believe. Those who dared to go beyond Srila Prabhupada's line of straight-forward preaching based on purity and not an academic style of hypocrisy ended up being doomed, lost in their minds, and becoming obsolete relicts of the past.

Sankirtan book distribution is most envigorating; it brings to us the freshness and life of Krsna Consciousness. The real sankirtan devotee can be recognised by his enthusiasm, vigour, and blissfulness. As a matter of fact, it's hard to find such a type of humour among the sankirtan devotees. It has nothing to do with the tormented pathos of those who "seek spiritual life within," ultimately finding only their own false ego and lust. Somebody may argue that he is physically handicapped due to disease and old age afflicting his body. I personally saw devotees distributing Srila Prabhupada's books from a wheel chair most effectively, becoming truly estactic.
Sankirtan book distribution is ahaituky apratihata; it can never be stopped or conditioned by material circumstances. If he is somewhat in a reasonable frame of mind, everybody can distribute Srila Prabhupada's books. As a matter of fact, we find that in regions dominated more by material power, people are more eager to take up Krsna Consciouseness than in regions where people think that by dint of money they can become happy.

We all carry our karmic load; our bodies are testimony to our past activities.
All this can be purified and "Krsna-ised" as Srila Prabhupada called it, in the fire of the sankirtan book distribution yajna. Yes, our peculiar bodily features may remain to some degree, but varna and asrama play no role in sankirtan as it is a transcendental activity. Still expressing ourselves through the varna conditioning, we can easily use that very same conditioning by becoming ecstasy devotees submerged by Lord Caitanya's mercy. Sudra type of devotee can distribute simply and effectively, as most of the people he meets fall into the same category. Vaisya type of devotee can enjoy the good fee some may pay for a big book they receive. A Ksatriya type of devotee may beam in ecstasy to find the right position and challenge he meets on the street daily, envigorating him to go for a higher type of challenge in the form of intensified devotional activity. And the brahmana type of devotee simply relishes being able to disseminate to the public such sublime transcendental knowledge as Srila Prabhupada's books include, a knowledge that can make anybody's life better and ultimately successful.
Regarding one's motivation, all varna conditioning can be applied in the process of book distribution and make us happy devotees who can also be united in an ideal way in this age of hypocrisy and quarrel.

One of the syptoms of Kali yuga is that even so-called spiritual seekers are quickly ready to pick up a quarell in regards to details to be found in the sastra, which are not the ultimate priority for our return back home back to Godhead. There are those who like to shine a distinct light while looking for quarrels with others. They can all be purified and united when joining the process of book distribution, as in this field any individuality finds its accommodation and its unification with the rest of the servants of Srila Prabhupada's mission.The variety of book distributors of any kind I ended up travelling with was indeed immense. Never in my life, if not as a devotee, would I meet such a group of excentric individuals. But once standing on the street with Srila Prabhupada's books in our hands, we faced the same challenge and shared the same mercy coming down on us. ANY problem of social kind (usualy generated from emotional discomfort) can be solved when we all unite in the process of book distrubution, which Srila Prabhupada established as "a process every member of his movement should know." It is indeed our main family business, or at least the understanding of anybody who has studied Srila Prabhupada's books, his lectures, his correspondence, and his legacy.

This does not discriminate against those devotees who are not directly distributing Srila Prabhupada's books; after all, a movement requires so many assistants who may serve the mission from back-line positions. As in the war, an example Srila Prabhupada often used: nurses, cooks, dressmakers, ammunition producers, residential quarter maintainers, technicians, and others are as important as the soldiers in the field (so many armies lost their war campaigns due to collapsing logistic support from the back lines). In the same way, sankirtan devotees need ALL the support they can get.

This text is only a humble attempt to amplify such voices of support for everybody who tries to distribute even one book of Srila Prabhupada for the eternal benefit of mankind. be continued...