Sankirtana Dasa, long time resident of New Vrindaban community, recently won a Storytelling World Resource Award for his dramatic storytelling CD Hanuman’s Quest. He is also a recipient of a WV Artist Fellowship Award, a National Endowment of the Arts Grant, an Ohio River Border Initiative Grant, and a Next Generation Indie Book Award for his Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest.
For many years Sankirtana had used his background in theater to write, act and direct Krishna Consciousness dramas. Today, he offers dramatic storytelling programs in a variety of venues. He is on the visiting artist rosters of the WV Division of Culture & History, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, Artsbridge, and is a member of the WV Storytelling Guild. The following interview with Sankirtana Dasa was conducted by Abhay Charana Dasa at New Vrindaban Communications.
Q: What do want to accomplish with your cd’s and books?
SKd: I see my work as a bridge in presenting Krishna Consciousness to the general public. Through my storytelling programs, books, cds and slide shows, I want to do two things: present it in a way to inspire devotees and to make Krishna Consciousness interesting and relevant to people in general.
Q: You recently won a Storytelling World Resource Award for your CD Hanuman’s Quest. What did this mean to you?
SKd. I’ve been involved with the national storytelling community for 25 years now. At one time I was the West Virginia liaison for the National Storytelling Network. I’m also with the WV Storytelling Guild. So it’s certainly an honor to be recognized in the field of my peers. Besides the international storytelling community, the Storytelling World Resource Awards are also of great interest to teachers who use storytelling in the classroom. The Awards are a way of acknowledging important resources for these communities.
Q; You are also an award-winning writer and storyteller. Which do you identify with more?
SKd: Whether you’re focused on the written word or the spoken word, it’s all about storytelling. My background is in the performing arts. I enjoy being in front of people. But I also enjoy writing and the challenges it presents. I enjoy using whatever creativity I have in Krishna’s service. Basically we are all creative beings. People need to be encouraged to connect with that and use it in Krishna’s service.
Q: So what's your secret about storytelling?
SKd: First of all, storytelling is a vital tool for anyone who wants to present Krishna Consciousness. Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Ramayana – these books depict transcendental knowledge through stories and they are especially meant for us conditioned souls of the Kaliyuga. Basically, storytelling is about using words to create images and action. Images can impact people's minds. Ideas and concepts only to a lesser extent. In Krishna Book, Prabhupada explains that we have a natural aptitude to hear stories through reading literature and seeing dramatic performances. When we redirect our hearing to Krishna’s pastimes we can more easily attain transcendence.
Q: Why do you think you won this award?
SKd: For one thing, the story of Hanuman is a fantastic, engaging story. And Hanuman is an endearing personality. Also, the musical background on the CD really compliments the storytelling, and I think that helped sway the judges' decision. The exciting musical score is by Tommy Raga and Sada Ruchi. Sada Ruchi also did the recording and mixing. I am indebted to them.
Q: But what did you bring to the telling?
SKd: Krishna has kindly helped me develop a dramatic sensibility. The elements of tension and suspense; of creating a scene or character with a minimum amount of description; of pacing and moving the story along in a clear and concise way which the listener can easily grasp. These are all part of the storyteller's, and the writer's, craft.
Sankirtana Das' storytelling performance at University of Cincinnati
Q: When did you know you had this talent?
SKd: Well, you didn't really know. Uncertainty can be a compelling force. It keeps you on your toes. But just like a carpenter - you do have to know the tools of your craft. You have to work at it. You have to sweat. You have to piece it together. It's both a craft and an art. And finally you have to pray that it all comes out right. Man proposes. God disposes.
Q: Do you have anything in the works you would like to share with us?
SKd: For the 50th celebrations, both last year and this year, I’ve focused on taking my slide show Journey To The West: Why & How the Hare Krishna Movement Came to America to colleges and other venues. I’m also working on two new books. I have nothing to say about them at this point. Usually, I like to have a few things in the works that I can bounce back and forth to.
Q: Thank you for sharing your craft with us.
SKd: And you know, I want to offer more workshops and coaching sessions to pass this craft along to others. Thank you.
For more information on Sankirtana Dasa’s award-winning CD and book visit www.Mahabharata-Project.com[ new vrindaban ] [ Ramayana ] [ Mahabharata ] [ Hanuman ] [ Sankirtan Das ] [ Hanuman's Quest ]