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We invite readers to contribute stories about their adventures performing sankirtan. The agony and the ecstasy of spreading Love of God. Readers may submit articles relating to Sankirtan by sending them to:
Radha Damodar Traveling Sankirtan Party
First let me begin by offering my respectful obesiences to all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord, who are so merciful to the fallen conditioned souls that they put themselves in perilous and austere conditions of life voluntarily, in order to help others. And as always, let me offer my most humble obeisances to my beloved spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, haven taken shelter at his Lotus feet.
I had the great fortune to be a part of the Historic RDTSKP in the years 1975-1976. What great and extraordinary personalities did I encounter in that time of my life. There was the legendary Vishnujan Swami who could bring the Hare Krishna revelers to a state of ecstasy with his vibrant and enthusiastic chanting. And his speaking was like honey dripping from the vine, so sweet and relishable. Then there was the remarkable Jayananda Thakur, so devoted to Srila Prabhupada's mission that most of us never saw him sleeping. He woke me in the morning by touching my feet or shaking my leg and shouting jiv jago, jiv jago, gaurachandra bole, "Wake up sleeping soul, wake up sleeping soul, Lord Gauranga is calling! How long will you sleep in the lap of the witch called Maya?" Jayananda taught me what it meant to be a disciple of Srila Prabhupada by his enthusiastic and never ending service. Whether he was taking out the trash, or making 500 Simply Wonderful sweet balls for the festival, he was caught up in a world of joy and devotion. And of course there was Tamal Krishna Goswami, so powerful a personality—"you just couldn't say no to Tamal". And my dear friend "the rascal" Gurudas Swami, who tricked me into shaving up and traveling on the bus for the next year by promising to introduce me to George Harrison, the Beatle. But I love him dearly because through his cunning trickery, I instead got to meet His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. And Gurudas was a gifted storyteller, and could entertain devotees and guests alike for hours with his gifts of Prabhupada Katha.
Yes, what a wonderful cast of characters. And in spite of the overcrowding, and the austere living conditions, we were a happy family. The morning prasadam was always relishable, the Srimad Bhagavatam classes and morning kirtan were always enlivening, and the spirit of comradery was infectious. In short, they were some of the happiest days of my life.
I loved being a devotee. I would look forward to going to the park or college campus, and putting on a festival. We set up the stage, brought on our musical instruments and chanted, while others arranged the distribution of prasadam and books. After the chanting when we went to mingle with the students or guests gathered there, I would enjoy preaching to new people and answering all sorts of questions like "Why do you guys shave your head? And why do you put mud on your foreheads?" etc. But sometimes the preaching was so sweet and people wanted to know, "Who is Krishna? Who is Srila Prabhupada?" And my joy knew no bounds. I hardly knew the philosophy myself, but when my desire to preach was unmotivated by false ego, Srila Prabhupada would give me the intelligence. I would be amazed how the words would just flow out of my mouth. By Srila Prabhupada's great mercy, to one who has taken to this process of sharing with others, he gives the intelligence. I was gaining an understanding of the process of Krishna Consciousness, simply by acting in Krishna Consciousness. It was so sublime. So simple!
The whole process of Hari Nam Sankirtan, going out in our dhotis with shaved heads and tilak, and chanting, passing out prasadam and books, is by far the most effective ways to attract others to this great movement. It was nice to hear someone chanting along, or watching them take their first meal of prasadam, but even more blissful was putting a book in someone's hand. It was Srila Prabhupada's books that gave me the highest taste of Krishna Consciousness, and helped me to understand the philosophy. So I guess in retrospect, my transition into book distribution, although not voluntary, was a natural progression. When Jayananda das bramachari, as he was known then, used to drop me off with a couple boxes of books and magazines to distribute, I would complain almost every day, "Oh please can't I stay back and just chant and read today? I'm really in Maya, ya know." He would just laugh and hand me my lunch sack, and tell me that distributing Srila Prabhupada's books would be more pleasing to him than me sleeping all day with my bead bag in hand. And he was of course right. Although my fear to go out and approach strangers was very real, as soon as I did, following the instructions of my authorities, I was cast into a world of bliss. I would hand someone a Bhagavad-Gita and turn to the nice pictures and point out that this is Krishna, and this is my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada. I was immediately thrown into another dimension, the spiritual realm. Hours would fly by, and before I knew it the Sankirtan van was pulling into the drop-off spot, and I was greeted by the most beautiful sight in this material world, my god brothers. We would share the prasadam that Jayananda Prabhu always seemed to have with him, and have a nice kirtan in the van on the way back to the bus, where there was usually warm milk waiting.
How we managed to all live together under one roof seems improbable, taking bucket baths or bathing with a garden hose in the dark of night, sleeping on the ground under the bus or on the roof of the bus or all huddled inside on cold and wet nights. But service to Srila Prabhupada, being an instrument in His mission, was so rich and satisfying that we hardly noticed the hardships. And to all my god brothers who had to put up with me, please forgive my offences. Some of you will remember me as Bhakta Buck, others will remember that Srila Prabhupada gave me the name Vyasasan das when I took initiation from him, but most of you will remember me as the guy most fallen, always in Maya, never taking this mission seriously, and always hungry for huge plates of prasadam. In some ways I haven't changed very much at all, and I am still hungry for huge plates of prasadam.
Your Friend in Service,
The Hare Krishna Devotees at Times Square NY
How I joined the Hare Krsna Movement
By Gauridasa Pandita Prabhu
Krsna Consciousness is always interesting. I joined the Hare Krsna Movement even before I thought I would. It started in Seattle Washington when Visnujana Swami brought his traveling Sankirtan Party to town.
His Holiness Visnujana Swami was a true modern day saint. I remember when I was a new guest at the Seattle temple in 1974. I had gone to the temple to attend the Sunday Love Feast and was gazing out the upstairs window when I heard a deep voice behind me say, “Haribol! I’m Visnujana Swami. I’m on my way to a festival in Vancouver and am stopping here for the Sunday festival. Please accept my humble obeisance’s.”
As I turned to look at Visnujana Swami, I noticed he had a very bright aura. He looked very pure and innocent. I had never offered obeisance’s before and here was a Swami offering obeisance’s to me! I bowed down with him acting like I knew the prayers.
Visnujana Swami started an ecstatic Kirtan and more and more devotees started showing up than ever before. People would come out of the woodwork when Visnujana Swami came around. He did devotional bhajans until about midnight. Every time he stopped chanting the devotees begged him to continue. We were dancing so much Sukadeva Prabhu, the temple president, was looking worried about the floor possibly caving in. What a way that would be to go!
I’d never stayed at the temple before, but since it was so late I decided to. I laid down in the hallway outside of the door where Visnujana was staying because there were so many devotees. I couldn’t sleep because I was still excited from all of Visnujana's ecstatic chanting. At about 2:30am Visnujana came out of his room and seeing me laying there still awake he said, ‘Haribol’ in his esoteric devotional voice. I was blissed out even more and my body started to quiver.
In those days I was attending college and working at Boeing Airplane Company. The devotees at the Temple kept telling me that I should go to San Francisco Rathayatra because the guru, Srila Prabhupada would be there. I decided to go ahead and take a transcendental ‘vacation’ and headed for San Francisco Rathayatra.
When I arrived at the temple on Market Street in San Francisco, I was greeted by Jayananda Prabhu who was serving out prasadam. He asked me if I could help prepare the Rathayatra carts. I happily agreed to help, since he was so pure, sincere and humble. He would always be singing as he drove us out to the Rathayatra site and as he did his services. He was always serving everyone very nice prasadam, often that he himself cooked. Jayananda was amazing and inspiring for all of us who were fortunate to come into contact with him. If someone hammered a nail, Jayananda would say that he was the best nail hammerer that he had ever seen. He was always encouraging everyone! I got to help Jayananda Prabhu for about 10 days.
The day for the Rathayatra festival finnally arrived, and it appeared as if it was going to rain. When Srila Prabhupada arrived and got upon his vyasasana seat on Lady Subhadra’s cart the clouds opened up and shined a beam of light on the self-effulgent acharya. Even though I was new and didn’t know much of the philosophy, I knew this was an auspicious omen and that Srila Prabhupada must be very specially spiritual like Jesus. At that point I accepted Srila Prabhupada as my guru, in my heart.
The day before Rathayatra, Visnujana Swami was giving a lecture in the Armenian Hall where most of the visiting devotees were staying. Having impersonal tendancies I was staring at the Deities of Sri Sri Radha and Damodar. Visnujana Swami was giving a Srimad Bhagavatam lecture and he said, “Don’t think that these Deities are idols. This is Krsna!" Just then a rose fell over Lord Damodara’s arm from below His cheek. This really impressed me. I was staring and meditating on the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Damodara at that time. Visnujana Swami always decorated the Deities gorgeously with lots of flowers and unique jewelry very fancy dressing. Much of it made by Ramachariya and some by myself later on. Damodara had a blue light on Him and Radharani had a red light on Her and They were very attractive and mystical looking. When I saw the rose drop down when Visnujana said the Deity is Krsna, I felt The Lord was communicating this to me.
Srila Prabhupada gave a great lecture at the 1974 SF Rathayatra festival. He said that the whole world follows America, and if we could make America Krishna conscious, the world would follow and it would become like Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. The crowd of around 10,000 roared in a happy response. The feast was also awesome. We were served out as we sat in huge rows. It was an unforgettable event organized mostly by Jayananda Prabhu, with all of the preparations and the expert serving of the devotees.
The day after Rathayatra I had packed my bags and was walking out of the hall on my way back to Seattle when I was stopped by Tamal Krishna Goswami. He asked me if I would like to see Srila Prabhupada in his room saying that if I joined their party I could. I said that I was not ready to join at that time and he then made a proposal saying that if I just got the hair trimmed around my ears, I would be presentable and I could see Srila Prabhupada personally. I agreed and a devotee named Aja Prabhu, 'an expert hair stylist,' I was told, led me into the bathroom and started to ‘trim’ my hair. I felt a few snips on top of my head and took a look in the mirror. I was shocked to see bald spots here and there. I could not go in public like that. I told him to just shave if off because anything would look better than that. Then I was dressed in a dhoti. I became new bhakta #13.
I was very upset and was preparing a speech in my mind and was going to tell Srila Prabhupada when we arrived at his quarters.
When we arrived at Srila Prabhupada’s apartment, we were all given a long-stemmed rose to hand to His Divine Grace. We were told to offer our obeisance’s but I didn’t even know them yet! I was nervous as my turn approached trying to prepare my speech. Srila Prabhupada was sitting behind a low table gracefully with one leg up. My hand shook as I reached to hand him the rose. My body shook as I offered my full dandavats. I was now too overwhelmed with Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental presence to be mad. I forgot the speech I was thinking of, about my being tricked into shaving up and joining. As we all settled in and sat down Srila Prabhupada looked happy and began to speak, “So you're all very bright-faced and fortunate to come to Lord Chaitanya’s movement. Now that you are fortunate, you should make others fortunate. Preach this message of Lord Chaitanya’s all over the world.”
Srila Prabhupada melted my heart. I realized it was Krishna’s arrangement. I thought about the rose dropping from Lord Damodar telling me He was there. I was tricked by the Supreme Trickster into joining the Hare Krsna Movement. I would have liked to move out of my apartment in Seattle first! It took me months to tell my parents to clear out my apartment because I knew they didn't want me to join the Hare Krsna's. They sent my older brother and sister to LA Temple when we were there to try to get me back. After a few doses of Kitri served on wax paper on the floor they finally gave up on me and went back to Washington.
After leaving Srila Prabhupada's darshan we boarded the Sri Sri Radha Damodara bus and headed out to perform Harinam Sankirtan all over America. First stop, in a fair in Minot, North Dakota.
It was ecstatic cruising down the freeway performing Kirtan along the way. We were shocking to people at times when we stopped and when we were performing Kirtan as we drove down the road.
The morning we arrived in Minot, ND, we pulled up behind a closed gas station to take our baths with a water hose. It was about 4am. All of the sudden a truck pulled around and shined it’s lights on us. We froze like deers starring into the headlights as the truck stopped for a quick moment then backed up and took off in a hurry. A short time later three police cars arrived at the scene after receiving a report of a UFO landing. Ha Ha Haribol!!! We explained ourselves as they looked very concerned.
We set up a nice booth at the fair and the programs went well. We chanted until about midnight with the colored lights on the Deities and lots of incense burning.
Our morning program started at about 7am. We would fill up the bathrooms with devotees bathing with pots with the sink water and shaving our heads and washing their feet in the sinks. Needless to say it was a shock to some of the locals. Some of them turned right around and walked out shaking their heads in disbelief.
As we chanted people gathered and some were so shocked that they stood there with wide open eyes and open mouths. Some even dropped their drinks.
We had a booth where we sold books, incense, oils and posters, etc., making about $800 a day, which was pretty good in those days. About seven more devotees joined up with our party at that fair. The program was so attractive many soul fortunate souls became purified enough to join. All glories to the Sankirtan mission which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for many years and extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence.
We had to keep getting more vans and buses to accomodate all the devotees who were joining almost everyday. Within two years we had 6 buses and many more vans full of devotees. After a year with Visnujana Swami we had a maha yajna initiation ceremony the day after the Chicago Rathayatra in 1975. We initiated 107 devotees; it was supposed to be 108 but one devotee fell asleep in a van and missed it. He still laments about that! We installed 4 sets of Sri Sri Goura Nitai Deities. Then I got transferred to another bus. It wasn't as nice as being with Visnujana Swami so I went to Vrindavan India, which was a great blessing.
All glories to Jayananda Prabhu and Visnujana Swami and our Divine spiritual master jagat guru Srila Prabhupada who started the Hare Krsna Movement from the Sri Sri Radha Damodara Temple in Sri Vrindavan Dhama, then in New York City in 1965. He opened over 100 Temples and wrote the spiritual lawbooks that will be used for thousands of years by devotees in this current Golden Age of Lord Chaitanya. We are so fortunate, let us take full advantage, save ourselves and others. Krsna Consciousness is the highest welfare activity we can perform. Let's share the light and love of Sri Sri Guru and Gouranga!
Hoping this meets you well and Happy in Krsna Consciousness
Your eternal friend and servant
Gauridasa Pandita Dasa
KIRTAN Ancient Medicine for Modern Man
by Hansadutta Swami
Rare out of Print book written by one on the famous Kirtan Leaders of The Hare Krishna Movement.
"The singing and dancing of Hare Krsna is known as kirtan. My spiritual master Srila Prahupada said; "This is not ordinary dancing: this is the dancing of the soul, a soul awakened to his original consciousness, Krishna consciousness." There is no motive in performing kirtana. It is the song and dance of ecstasy, the dance of the soul. The soul is dancing: therefore the body is dancing. Actually, the body cannot dance without the soul. A body without the soul is a dead body" (excerpt from book)
This is a beautiful Softbound book that is beautifully illustrated with Color and B & W Plates throughout.
Limited supply! Get one while they last!
* 6 x 9
* 105 pages Softbound cover
* Foreword, Preface, Introduction, Appendixes, About the Author, Supporting References from Vedic Scriptures, Glossary, and Index
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Note: All prices in US Dollars