If you’ve been reading ISKCON News regularly, you’ll know that there’s been a very successful effort in North America over the past three years to keep increasing distribution of ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s books.
And now, the same innovator behind that idea has a plan to give the same boost to street chanting of Krishna’s Holy Names, another spiritual practice Prabhupada placed a lot of importance in. “The religious practice for the Age of Kali [yuga-dharma] is to broadcast the glories of the Holy Name,” states his translation of the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita. And in a 1974 letter he wrote, “It is this sankirtana which is the life and soul of our movement.”
At the North American GBC and Temple Presidents’ Meetings from January 20th to 25th in Dallas, Texas, book distribution strategist Vaisesika Das launched a new program along with an accompanying e-newsletter and website, kirtanparty.com, to assist and inspire communities to increase their public kirtan programs.
Vaisesika is inviting ISKCON community leaders and members all over North America to join the Kirtan Party Google group through www.kirtanparty.com and begin reporting every two weeks on how many times they’ve sent kirtan parties out to chant publicly. The results will then get published on kirtanparty.com.
“What gets measured gets improved,” says Vaisesika, quoting leadership expert Robin S. Sharma. “Just by becoming aware of how many times they’re doing it, and how many times others are doing it, devotees will naturally become encouraged to do it more.”
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He refers to the history of the World Sankirtan Newsletter (www.sankirtannewsletter.com), which began tracking the book distribution results of just a few temples way back in 1974, and inspired centers the world over to increase their efforts as more and more started reporting.
The Kirtan Party program isn’t just interested in increasing the quantity of kirtan parties going out, however. It’s also interested in upping the quality.
“The first point is that it should be pure,” Vaisesika says. “The devotees who are singing should be very much dedicated to a life of devotional service. And they should be taking shelter of the Holy Names as they’re singing, knowing that they’re simply broadcasting, but that it’s the power of the Holy Name that’s attractive to people.”
Of course, there are also aesthetic considerations. Back in the 16th century, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu meticulously organized His kirtan parties, carefully choosing singers, musicians, dancers, the number of each instrument used, and so on.
More recently, Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to be smartly dressed especially when presenting themselves to the public, saying, “Dress, then address.”
According to Vaisesika, there are also other considerations in presenting kirtan parties to the public in ways that are likely to elicit more appreciative responses, such as not causing inconvenience to pedestrians, and not overamplifying in a way that agitates local business owners.
Kirtanparty.com has just been launched and is still under construction now, but in time it will include many of these kinds of authoritative guidelines on street chanting from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s biographies and the teachings of Srila Prabhupada.
“We hope these will help devotees incrementally improve the quality of their presentation in public, as per the instructions of sastra and guru,” says Vaisesika.
Kirtanparty.com will also share best practices from successful kirtan parties and tips on how to organize. And it will include a wealth of videos, photographs and straight-from-the-scene reports showcasing exemplary kirtan parties across North America.
Already, there are inspiring cases: devotees from New York City’s Harinam Ashram chant publicly on the streets of the Big Apple 365 days a year. Washington D.C. devotees have 200 public kirtan performances a year. And there are many more.
Now is the time for a public kirtan explosion, Vaisesika feels, for several reasons. Devotees will be enlivened by it. The public have been waiting for it. (One of the most frequent comments devotees get when they’re out in public is “Where have you guys been?”) And increased kirtan parties mean increased book distribution. As Srila Prabhupada wrote, “Sankirtana and book distribution should go on together side by side.”
Most of all, Vaisesika says, “The world needs it. The only way to solve the problems of the world is to increase the vibration of the Hare Krishna mantra. This [According to Vaishnava scriptures] is the main religious practice for this age. And so it should go on regularly in all cities around the world.”
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To join the Kirtan Party Google Group and report your community’s public kirtans, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the Forum here: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/kirtanparty.
Subscribe to the KirtanParty Newsletter here: http://tiny.cc/KirtanPartySubscribe.
Or, visit www.kirtanparty.com.[ kirtana ] [ los-angeles ] [ new-york-city ]