The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has kicked off the New Year by launching its own podcast, “Sankirtan On,” to inspire devotees.
The podcast is facilitated by the BBT’s Marketing, Communications and Innovations dept and was conceived by the department’s director Vaisesika Das as a way to make sankirtan (book distribution and harinama) relevant to a younger generation.
Branding and social media manager Anukula Seva Das, technical expert Amanda Vikram Das, and host Ananda-Murari Das round out the team.
Ananda-Murari, who joined ISKCON in 2012 and has distributed books with the RVC Traveling Sankirtan Party and ISKCON Denver, hosts from his home in Denver.
The podcast, which will be available on all major podcast platforms including Soundcloud and iTunes, will bring listeners interviews, news, stories and inspiration from around the world.
The first must-listen episode sees Ananda-Murari chatting with Vaisesika Das, a legendary book distributor and sankirtan innovator.
“He’s the ideal first guest because his whole mood really embodies the spirit of sankirtan,” Ananda says. “And as he tells us in his episode, sankirtan is not simply distributing books or going out on harinama; it’s actually a holistic approach to how we practice spiritual life, and how that spiritual life then overflows into the rest of our daily activities.”
In their conversation, Vaisesika and Ananda-Murari discuss sankirtan as a lifestyle of gratitude, in which it is a natural reaction to share the gifts we’ve been given. They talk about the synergistic relationship between book distribution and street chanting of the Holy Name. They talk about the process of Saranagati, or surrender, and how to see oneself as an instrument. And they cover the apprension one may feel when going out on sankirtan.
“When we go out on sankirtan, we have to redefine what our goal is,” Ananda-Murari says. “If our goal is just to convince everyone to take a book, then we’re going to be disappointed. But the real goal is purification.”
Thus Vaisesika calls book distribution “high sadhana,” and emphasizes that we should not only make a plan to share Krishna consciousness, but also to imbibe it within our own lives.
Vaisesika illustrates this in the episode by recalling how, as a young book distributor in San Francisco, the sankirtan team he was on came to see Srila Prabhupada.
“The temple president introduced them saying, “Srila Prabhupada, these devotees are distributing your books,’” Ananda-Murari recounts. “And Prabhupada looked at them very sternly and said, ‘You must also read these books.’”
In future episodes, Ananda-Murari hopes to interview Mother Nidra in ISKCON Denver, who is famous for her steadiness, distributing books every day for about forty-five years.
He also hopes to talk with Deva Madhava Das, temple president of the innovative Harmony Collective in Michigan; Hari Shyam Das, who is heading up a new sanctuary outreach project in downtown Chicago; and book distributor Brajananda Das, who served on the RVC party, and is now temple president at ISKCON Tallahassee, Florida.
“If you’re asking about my dream list, Indradyumna Swami and Radhanath Swami would be pretty ecstatic too,” Ananda-Murari laughs.
As far as topics go, he would like to cover best practices, challenges and barriers to sharing Krishna consciousness, and new and innovative ways of distributing Prabhupada’s books and presenting Krishna consciousness in general.
“I think as a society, we don’t always have to recreate the wheel at every individual center; but we have to get better at franchising things that work,” he says. “So I’m interested in collecting those and sharing them.”
Ananda-Murari also plans to report news of innovative achievements in ISKCON, particularly by young devotees, “So that the good news spreads like fire, and those methods inspire and fuel other ideas and visions.”
Another exciting feature of Sankirtan On will be audio sankirtan stories, recorded by book distributors from around the world and sent in to the show.
“Often we as humans are looking for miracles,” Ananda says. “We want something extra-ordinary. We want to live a life that’s not just mundane and standard. And sankirtan really affords that experience. Practically every time you go out, there’s some kind of mystical situation that occurs. So the stories will bring awareness to that.”
Although a release frequency hasn’t been set yet for Sankirtan On, the podcast is expected to come out at least once a month. So far, the response to the first episode has been very positive.
“Devotees who are either already doing sankirtan, or are interested in trying it, are saying that the podcast is very inspirational,” Ananda-Murari says. “Many active sankirtan devotees felt that it was very helpful and encouraging in getting them out the door that day. So they’re excited for the next few episodes!”
Listen to the first episode of Sankirtan On with Vaisesika Prabhu here: