The glories of Sankirtan-book distribution are endless as much are the benefits of devotional service.
A sankirtan devotee must and will gradually develop all the qualities of a real devotee, as book distribution doesn´t facilitate any type of hypocrisy. It is mainly for this reason so few can do it, as we still rely on our long-term indebted bodily designations, in one way or another.
In the following points one may find various statements to be repeated, as Srila Prabhupada´s purports elaborate on various points again and again. One cannot stress something, which is real in this world of illusions, too often. Illusions are plenty and they come easy. Truth comes after tapasya, austerities being performed. "Its little bit bitter at the beginning, but very sweet at the end," said Srila Prabhupada. That is the nature of sankirtan-book distribution.
Sankirtan is teaching sense control.
Sense control is the very first requirement for anybody who wants to fulfill the real purpose of human life, it is what distinguishes humans from animals.
It is the first thing a bhakta realizes when standing on the street with Srila Prabhupada´s books in his hands. How is it possible to approach anybody and give him a book when my eyes, ears, my nose, my touch...and above all my mind is completely out of control?!
Most people in this word are totally victimized by their senses without even knowing it. Their mind assisted by croocked intelligence and the powerful false ego, pushes them into constantly changing new scenarios of pursuit of heighten sense gratification, all the way to the point of madness. Anger and fury is their reward as the senses can never be satisfied, and all their hopes get frustrated.
And so a very new sankirtan warrior has to learn quickly the strategical warfare, the art how to invade the heavily guarded fortress the conditioned soul is hiding in. Even boasting with all kinds of humanistic and altruistic slogans, everybody born into this world is an egocentric being in pursuit of his own ideas who he is and how he should be viewed by others.
Here are the steps how a sankirtan warrior invades the heart of a conditioned soul:
A/ Block the senses!
This is done by a look into the eyes, movement of a hand, as matter of fact any sign, which initiates a personal contact is of use. The stories how book distributors do this are many, and they are very individual as sankirtan demonstrates the absolute individuality and uniqueness of the soul.
I saw devotees simply smiling, I saw them pointing to a person of their choice. As matter anything can be used to wake up the recipient of the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, from his hypnotized state maya puts him in.
B/ Initiate personal contact!
When the contact is made, the best is the book already rests in the hand of the conditioned soul so he may feel obliged to stop, stay and listen (people who don´t hold books in their hands usually walk away), SOUND is important. Looking into the eyes the sankirtan warrior has to invade the private domains of the conditioned soul by means of his speech.
What he says is not even that important as HOW he says it. In this moment, the sound vibration carries all the prayers of the distributor for the deliverance of that particular soul, the urgency of the message delivered by Srila Prabhupada, the recognition of the unique moment where after innumerable lifetimes the soul may receive bhakti lata bhija in a form of the book, the seed of bhakti, devotion to the Supreme Lord.
C/Engage the mind!
When acquiring the attention of the senses of the conditioned soul, the sankirtan warrior has to quickly engage his mind only to surpass the croocked intelligence of the one who holds the book in his hand, and face the biggest and most powerful enemy and guardian of the conditioned soul - his false ego. This moment is crucial. It is a battle of desires. Whose desire will be stronger? The one amongst many the conditioned soul is powered by, or the single pointed desire of the book distributor who tries hope against hope to reclaim conditioned soul from maya´s grip? The Supersoul dwelling in the hearts of both is anumanta and upadrasta, the observer and the permission giver, the challenge is on.
D/Bow down and conquer!
At this crucial moment, there is only one way to reach the heart of the karmi, and that is...humility. Humility is unknown to most people one meets on the street, and so the perplexed karmi will not even notice how a devotee sneaks into his heart.
"My dear sir, you are so knowledgeable, so intelligent, so powerful, so influential, so great. Could you please only for one second put all these assets you have aside, and accept the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu?"
This was the only "book distribution mantra" Srila Prabhupada gave. Instead of confronting and battling the false ego of a karmi, a sankirtan devotee "crawls under it" by dint of his humility.
Finally reaching the heart of the conditioned soul, the sankirtan warrior having dropped the book and leaves it there while quickly retreating.
Finally reaching the heart of the conditioned soul, the sankirtan warrior drops the book and leaves it there while quickly retreating.
In these few minutes the process of awakening of the conditioned soul, planting of bhakti lata bhija takes place. In these few minutes most conditioned souls experience the transcendental bliss of being unknowingly engaged in devotional service. Most of book distribution is done on ajnata sukriti, unconcious engagement in devotion service, we can hardly expect more. "At least they look over it", said Srila Prabhupada and He added, "just by reading one line, their lives are saved".
Srila Prabhupada´s books have life on their own, they are traveling preachers, affecting lives of anybody who comes in touch with them. Merely their presence is changing the atmosphere from material to spiritual, and so Srila Prabhupada advocated their MASSIVE and INDISCRIMINATE distribution, and not as some tried later to limit it to the "intellectual class of people". From spiritual point of view anybody born in this world is a fool, and Srila Prabhupada´s books are here to remind us of this fact.
And so no amount of verbal argument can improve the situation, one single book being distributed is of more value than thousands of words being exchanged in worthless dispute. And the sankirtan warrior should go about his business discretely and not to allow the conditioned soul to drag him down to mundane mental platform. "What is the use of all your lecturing if they don´t take the book", said Srila Prabhupada.
The books will stay, we will move on. That is the understanding of a real sankirtan devotee.
This is in the nuttshell the process of book distribution and the ways a sankirtan devotee acquires the mercy of the Lord, who was all the time present as Paramatma, as observer and permission giver in both hearts - the one who distributes the book and the one who receives the book. Without Krsna´s sanction not even a blade of grass can move. This is a realization which comes to any sincere book distributor.
Sankirtan is teaching true humility.
To look humble is easy, any kanistha adhikari can do so. Even demons like Hiranyakasipu (while pacifying his friends in regard to the death of his brother Hiranyaksa), can speak Krsna concious philosophy.
"There are many demons in this Krsna conscious movement", wrote Srila Prabhupada, but they all have one thing in common: they cannot distribute Srila Prabhupada´s books, at least not for long, as this service requires REAL humility, absolute introspection of one´s fallen self, and so many other qualities one has to acquire gradually.
True humility is demonstrated by uncompromised acceptance of Srila Prabhupada´s instructions. Such uncompromised follower may appear from mundane point of view to be proud or even being designated as "fanatic" and ostracized, as he doesn´t feel to be obliged to mundane standards of "humility". But Srila Prabhupada said that when one got something so wonderful like Krsna Consciousness, one should be proud of it.
Sankirtan is teaching detachment from all false designations.
"This is a world of names only," says Srimad Bhagavatam. Everybody we meet is designated by his name, his nationality, his occupation, and by his body, which is physically manifesting all these false identities.
And so a sankirtan devotee wanders through this festival of false identities as if seeing some sort of carneval parade. Being able to approach people as individual persons, he doesn´t upset their false conceptions, but purifies them by engaging them in devotional service. Sankirtan devotee is a perfect psychologist by dint of the intelligence given to him by Krsna, and as a real madhyam adhikari can discriminate between demoniac, innocent, and devotional persons he meets.
Kanistha adhikaris cannot perform sankirtan due to identification with false identities. Even a good man becomes a bad man when wrongly situated. All those wrongly situated on Duryodhana´s side were killed, even some being devotees.
And so a sankirtan devotee can externally change a "costume", only to be able to plant the seed of bhakti into the heart of the conditoned soul. But in his heart he knows that he is eternal servant of Krsna, and all the designations assigned to him are temporary, and will vanish along his body.
Sankirtan is teaching one to be a "freedom lover".
Following the "regulative principles of freedom", a sankirtan devotee achieves freedom. For materialists this sounds contradictory, as "freedom" means to them total absence of any principle, and absolute engagement in sense gratification. What is night for them is a day for devotee and vice versa. Sankirtan devotee enjoys freedom even physically, traveling, meeting vast amounts of people. He learns to see Bhagavad-gita enacted. He learns about workings of the three modes of material nature, about himself. There is no better and faster way to become Krsna conscious than to distribute Srila Prabhupada´s books. No wonder Srila Prabhupada wrote "every member of the Hare Krsna Movement should know the art of book distribution".
Sankirtan opens one´s eyes.
Covered with all the false designations, we are taught to walk in darkness, stumbling all the time. Very few are ready to accept jnana, theoretical knowledge about oneself. Even more rare are those who are ready to perform necessary tapasya in order to achieve vijnana, realized knowledge.
That kind of knowledge is given to a sankirtan devotee so abundantly, that some may get so scared about that kind of impact of Truth, that they prefer to leave sankirtan, and assume either inadequate positions while claiming 'to advance in Krsna Consciousness', or they prefer to merge again anonymously with the mass of conditioned souls. However once tasting the nectar of book distribution, such unfortunate warriors suffer even more in regards of their defeat at hands of Maya.
Sankirtan awakens spontaneous transcendental ecstasy.
It is the spontaneous bliss, which rises from the heart of a sankirtan devotee, who despite of all odds strives for the mercy of guru and Gauranga.
Just the attempt alone to give somebody a book of Srila Prabhupada is most auspicious, what to speak of those who dedicate their lives to this service. As sankirtan is ahaituki apratihata, it doesn't rely on any material qualifications or circumstances, anybody can distribute Srila Prabhupada's books....if his or her desire is strong enough. Desire is the part, which entirely depends on us. It is here where the soul has its minute independance. Man proposes, God disposes.
How does one develop such desire? By association.
Nothing could have been more foreign to me than to go out and distribute books. When I walked into the temple in 1972, I was an eighteen years old aspiring dreaming artist, a shy boy who had hard time to adress people, a silent introvert under the control of his mind. I was desperate, crushed by my loneliness. And so I clinched to the Holy Name and was literally swept into the streets by devotees who just started a new yatra, all ready to sacrifice their lives for Srila Prabhupada. Not joining them on sankirtan would have meant to return to my room, to my lonely existence, to my raging mind. Until today I am most grateful to all those brave souls, my godbrothers, who pushed me out of my introverted existence and showed me who I really am: the eternal servant of Srila Prabhupada. And so I got my real life, my own life, back.
Sankirtan attracts mercy of guru parampara.
There is no other place as the street where one stands with Srila Prabhupada's books in hands, trying to give them to stubborn obstinate souls, where one learns how dependant one is on the blessings of one's superiors.
There is a progressive plan by members of our guru parampara how to reclaim the conditioned souls from the grip of maya. To be part of such grand plan is a great privilege and those blessed in this way can "simply count their blessings", as Srila Prabhupada used to say.
Becoming a book distributor one automatically becomes a member of this grand transcendental family, where all the predecessors shower their blessings on the bhakta who distributed even one book only. So valuable is this service, as this one book can save many by moving them closer to Krsna, making them aware of their constitutional position at His lotus feet.
And so Srila Prabhupada passed responsibility for the task He got on to us, and made us part of this great mission. He made it unconditionally, giving us access to all the mercy guru parampara is willing to deliver.
However, it should be always remembered that without Srila Prabhupada's blessings our connection to guru parampara is blocked. Personally, I see Srila Prabhupada manifesting in the hearts of any book distributor, regardless whose disciple he may be presently, or what his age may be. So dear is this service to Srila Prabhupada!
Sankirtan is teaching the value of association with devotees.
Traveling for prolonged time in a van with the same four brahmacaries can be socially spoken demanding. On this small place, surrounded by luggage and traveling paraphernalia, sleeping in the cars as we used to do, one learns to tolerate the physical discomforts such life offers.
Trying to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books to most obstinate materialists the whole day is teaching one to appreciate the presence of those, who however imperfect chant the Holy Name and try to give it to others. It can be noticed, that those of kanistha adhikari nature who don't preach remain hard hearted even they may speak about love all the time. Real love and compassion comes through active service, not through an artificial exposition of the mind. Sankirtan brings real love and it softens the heart, which was for innumerable lifetimes dominated by egocentric selfishness. In such state of mind one learns the value of any kind of association with madhyam adhikari devotee. Kanistha adhikaris, unless not willing to serve madhyama adhikaris in their preaching service, should be avoided.
Sankirtan is engaging conditioned souls in ajnata sukriti.
Most recipients of Srila Prabhupada's books don't understand them. "Only by devotional service I can be recognized" says Krsna. And so simply by buying the book a conditioned soul is unknowingly engaged in devotional service, becoming purified...so it may eventually appreciate and understand at least some parts of Krsna conscious philosophy. In this way EVERYBODY should get a book from Srila Prabhupada, regardless if he or she is able to understand or not. The patient may be saved by medicine he has no knowledge about. Afterall he doesn't even understand the nature of his disease. If Srila Prabhupada would expect us first to understand and then practice Krsna Consciousness, this movement would never come into existence. He FIRST engaged us in service, and then some understood. What He really gave us we try to understand until today. Those who claim to have understood the full extend of Srila Prabhupada's mercy are liars. As Krsna is anandam-buddhi vardhanam, ever expanding, so ever expanding is His pure devotee in His attempt to save the conditioned souls. As the skies exceed the flight of even greatest birds, so our understanding of Srila Prabhupada's greatness will never be complete. But to be part of such an ever expanding mission is truly wonderful. By Srila Prabhupada's mercy it is possible. As He himself once said humorously, "I tricked you"...and the devotees responded with ecstatic approval. Sankirtan devotees apply the same approach. By their prayers, by their purity of purpose, even those who never planned to do so, take a book. What to speak of those who after wandering thousands of lifetimes through various bodies are able to recognize and embrace the opportunity they got by receiving a book from Srila Prabhupada consciously! Such fortunate souls are rare. Sankirtan is a blessing for everybody, regardless of the stage of his covering and the stage of his spiritual progress.
Sankirtan teaches true compassion.
Everybody born into this world is egocentric and selfish one way or another. The proof is that he is born in this world.
Srila Prabhupada said so very clearly and whoever goes on sankirtan will quickly realize it. However extended his selfishness to others may be, such altruist or philanthropist will always see himself as the center, and even unconsciously will enviously compete with God, who is the ultimate Controler, ultimate Enjoyer and ultimate Benefiting Friend of everybody.
Sankirtan devotee knows that. So in the ultimate beneficial sense he connects everybody to Krsna, and is compassionate in absolute way. Those who see themselves as the center, still even after posing to be a devotee, cannot go or cannot remain on sankirtan. Sometimes they hide behind high sounding institutional titles...but that's another text to be written. The purity of purpose and the consequent ecstasy sankirtan offers is not available to them.
Sankirtan is teaching one to be simple and pragmatic.
To do the needful and use only the needful are the ways of living for a sankirtan devotee. Srila Prabhupada's guideline "We expect the worst and hope for the best"
turns a sankirtan devotee to a real pragmatic optimist, who without any pretense of being falsely "merciful", tries to reclaim the conditioned souls from grip of maya.
If later on being married, sometimes sankirtan devotees experience difficulties when facing the intricacies and complex situations this asrama offers. Due to their unwillingness to become more entangled in the network of social life, those who experienced the SIMPLE but most profound ecstasy of book distribution are sometimes accused to be not truly sensitive and attentive to the more sensual and mental ones. Forgetting that unless not coming to the level of absolutely pure devotional service, even devotees are ranking according to their level of conditioning. Such "sankirtan cursed" warrior may have hard time to accept the social workings of a however pious society as a real. But thanks to his training on sankirtan, he can overcome such complex situations...or not. Srila Prabhupada's dedication to the mission of His spiritual master was finally not recognized or supported by His family members, and so He had to do the needful.
...Those who find support or at least tolerance from the side of their relatives and family members don't have to do what Srila Prabhupada has done, but they can do whatever their capacity may be - join sankirtan by either supporting those who are actively distributing books, or distribute themselves.