Sankirtana is Our Life & Soul


* It is This Sankirtana Which is the Life and Soul of Our Movement *

The quotes from Srila Prabhupada presented here are in chronological order to give a little feel for the evolution of sankirtana and preaching in our Krishna consciousness movement. We can see how wonderfully Srila Prabhupada encouraged his devotees in their preaching efforts going from street chanting and free pamphlet distribution to book printing and distribution as our most important activity. Hare Krishna!

As Much Chanting on the Streets as Possible

Regarding your questions about Sankirtana Party, I think you should try to always have Sankirtana going on. All other things are subsidiary. This chanting is our life and soul, so we must arrange our program now so that there will be as much chanting on the streets and at college engagements as possible. On May 12th, we had a very successful engagement at Ohio State University, and over one thousand boys and girls were chanting and dancing along with us. So this policy should be continued as far as possible. (Letter to Satsvarupa / May 14, 1969)

If Need be the Whole Temple Can be Locked

I have received a similar letter from Brahmananda also that you are finding some difficulty in keeping pace regularly with the routine work. My advice to you under the circumstances is that at least for one hour you must all go to have Sankirtana outside on the streets or in the park. That is your life and soul, first business. The next business is completing the chanting of 16 rounds every day. The next business is your editing, and if you find extra time, then you can attend the temple ceremonies. Otherwise you can stop these activities, but outdoor kirtana, your editing work and chanting of 16 rounds must be done. Outdoor kirtana must be done, even at the cost of suspending all editorial work. That is your first and foremost business. Temple worship is not so important. If need be, the whole temple can be locked, but the outdoor kirtana cannot be stopped. (Letter to Rayarama / May 17, 1969)

All Pamphlets and Leaflets Are Well Selected

The pamphlet enclosed by you is very nice and I am translating it into Hindi. You have very diligently collected all the purports in Srimad-Bhagavatam and have presented very nicely our missionary activities, especially in reference to religion, politics, and sociology. Actually we want to establish a transcendental human society in which everything will be perfectly done so that man will be happy in this life as well as the next. All pamphlets and leaflets are well selected and if you simply preach the message contained in that literature, that will be sufficient stock to deliver to the people in general. (Letter to Visnujana Maharaja / February 22, 1971)

This Street Chanting Must Go On – It Is Our Most Important Program

I have been informed by Sriman Syamasundara. of your question via telephone from New York Temple, and my reply is that this sankirtana or street chanting must go on, it is our most important program. Lord Caitanya’s movement means the sankirtana movement. You may simply take two hours for chanting sixteen rounds daily, two hours for reading congregationally, and balance of time go out for sankirtana. We must do both, reading books and distributing books, but distributing books is the main propaganda. Reading in class for two hours is sufficient and other reading can be done in spare time if one has got it, it is not that one has to be always reading. One hour a morning for Bhagavata class and one hour evening, either Bhagavad-gita or Nectar of Devotion, that is sufficient.

So far the painting department is concerned, they have telephoned me also, so their work is very important, and four or five painters may be allowed to paint full-time, after chanting two hours their rounds, and they may spend one or two hours on sankirtana party as it is convenient. Jadurani is the best book seller of all, so she may go out for distributing books as much as possible if it is convenient and does not tax her too much away from painting art work. (Letter to Bali Mardan & Pusta Krishna / September 18, 1972)

If We Sincerely Preach to One Person in a Day

I am very much disturbed to hear from you that you have become disturbed in your mind. Do not be disturbed. There is no cause for anxiety. You are doing your best to serve Krishna, that is very much appreciated, so do not lose enthusiasm out of frustration, that will spoil everything. Krishna Consciousness means we should always be satisfied and happy, not that we must work something impossible, becoming overburdened, and then because we are unhappy by so much trouble we lose enthusiasm altogether and give up all hope. No, if too much endeavour is there, that is to be avoided. By all means we must preserve our spiritual status, that is the point, not that we are mad after big buildings, many devotees, life-members, this, that—no, these are only ways to engage the devotees so that they may apply the principles of devotional living to some kind of work for practical realization of these principles. It is not the result of the work we want. If only one person daily, if we sincerely preach to such one person in a day, that is sufficient, never mind big, big programmes. So my request to you is that you do not be bothered by these things, and I have instructed Tamala Krishna and Syamasundara to send you men, so they will do it, rest assured. Krishna does not like to see His sincere devotee suffer or become frustrated or depressed. He will not stand idly by in any such case, so do not fear on that account. Krishna has got some plan for you, always think in that way, and very soon He will provide everything to your heart’s desire. (Letter to Tejiyas / December 19, 1972)

Thank You Very Much for Helping Me in This Way

I am very glad to hear from you the wonderful news of travelling party in England. I think the people of that place are becoming more and more inclined for this Krishna Consciousness movement, they are inviting you to stay at their houses, they are taking books, becoming sometimes devotees—all of these are very encouraging signs to me. If you simply go on in this way, stopping in every village and city of England-Scotland, or if there are other places like Ireland, simply stop for some time, distribute books and hold Sankirtana procession, answer their questions, give some leaflets or small informations freely, distribute prasadam wherever possible, at least some small thing, and if there is genuine interest being shown, then request the townspeople to arrange some engagements for speaking in their schools, or in someone’s home, or a hall, like that. In this way remain always without anxiety for destination and comfortable situations, always relying only on the mercy of Krishna for your plan, just go on preaching His message and selling His books, wherever there is interest… Because you are rightly understanding through your personal realization this philosophy of Krishna Consciousness, therefore in such a short time you have surpassed all the stages of yoga processes to come to the highest point of surrendering to Krishna. That I can very much appreciate, thank you very much for helping me in this way.

Hoping this meets you and the other men of your party in the best of health and spirits.

(Letter to Prabha Visnu / January 3, 1973)

It is Always Better if There Are Some Devotees Chanting Loudly on the Street

Regarding your question is it all right to assign the entire sankirtana party for distributing books so that no one will be free for street chanting? Of course we should not understanding the meaning of sankirtana very narrowly, that only chanting and dancing and playing instruments, no, sankirtana means to glorify the Lord in a congregational manner. So if many devotees are going out daily on the streets and public places for distributing our literature, that is also sankirtana, even if there is no one chanting. Hearing and chanting are essential processes for sankirtana. So if someone is hearing us singing on the street, or if he is purchasing one book and if he reads sincerely, these two activities are the same. So if there is any occasion of necessity, if there are not very many men available or if there is prohibition by the municipal authorities, something like that, we may assign everyone for distributing our literatures, there is no loss for that. But it is always better if there are also some devotees chanting loudly on the street. If there is even one man to two men or a small party who are chanting Hare Krishna, that will increase also the book sales. So if there are sufficient men, and if we have got sanction by the authorities, it is always better to have at least a small party chanting along with as many distributers of books as possible.

(Letter to Ravindra Svarupa / January 5, 1973)

Somehow or Other We Push on Some Literature in His Hand

So still it is our duty to make all these misfortunate, unfortunate creatures fortunate. That is our mission. We therefore go in the street and chant. Although they say: “Can’t,” we go on chanting. That is our business. And, somehow or other, we push on some literature in his hand. He is becoming fortunate. He would have squandered his hard-earned money in so many nasty, sinful ways, and if he purchases one book, never mind what is the price, his money is properly utilized. The beginning of Krsna consciousness is there. Because he is giving some money, hard-earned money, for this Krsna consciousness movement, he is getting some spiritual profit. He’s not losing. He’s getting some spiritual profit. Therefore our business is, somehow or other, bring everyone in this Krsna consciousness movement. He will be profited.

(Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.30 / Los Angeles – April 22, 1973)

Sankirtana and Book Distribution Should Go On Together Side by Side

Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated August 15th, along with the sankirtana news letter #19, and I thank you very much for it. You can continue sending me these news letters as you publish them weekly. It is this sankirtana which is the life and soul of our movement. Sankirtana and book distribution should go on together side by side. I am always glad when these activities are increasing and my pleasure is always increasing. *(This letter was in response to the first Sankirtana Newsletter sent to Srila Prabhupada!)

(Letter to Srutadeva / September 8, 1974)

Even If the Brahmacari Was Not a Very Important Member

I am in due receipt of your Sankirtana newsletters No. 23 & 24. These statistics are very nice. I like very much to receive the report of my book sales. I think it also gives encouragement to the devotees who distribute the books. Here at Mayapur my guru maharaj was printing one paper. It was selling for only a few paise. Sometimes whenever one brahmacari would go to Navadvipa and sell even a few copies, I would see my guru maharaj become very much pleased. Even if the brahmacari was not a very important member, my guru maharaj would become very, very pleased with him. He personally instructed me that books are more important than big temples. At Radha Kunda he told me that since constructing the big marble temple at Bhag Bazar, there have been so many difficulties. Our men our envious over who will live in which room. I think it would be better to take off all the marbles and sell them and print books. He told me this personally. So I am always emphasizing book distribution. It is the better kirtana. It is better than chanting. Of course chanting should not stop, but book distribution is the best kirtana. (Letter to Srutadeva / October 24, 1974)

Push on the Literature Distribution As Far As Possible

I look forward to seeing the Italian Sri Isopanisad. In France they have now published. There is very good scope in Europe for this Sankirtana movement. If you just spread this chanting in Europe, then it becomes Vaikuntha. Side by side push on the literature distribution as far as possible. This should be done very vigorously, and you will have great success there. My guru maharaj was always very pleased when even a small pamphlet was distributed. So I thank you for your assisting me in this mission to fulfill the order of my guru maharaj.

(Letter to Haihaya / November 21, 1974)

Our Real Business is to Print and Distribute Books

I am in due receipt of your weekly sankirtana newsletters. I am always happy to hear of increasing book sales. These reports are very encouraging to me. Our real business is to print and distribute books. By doing this business, you are all becoming recognized by Krishna. Please try to continue working so nicely for Krishna, following the rules and regulations, chanting 16 rounds, and studying my books and you will finish your business in this material world in this life and enter into the spiritual world to live with Krishna eternally. Don’t become discouraged by any so-called problems. Make your program simple, that is to say, always make sure that you are somehow or other engaged in Krishna’s service, and the best service is preaching or engaging others in Krishna’s service. So continue in this way and be happy. (Letter to Srutadeva / May 19, 1975)

Srila Prabhupada Telling a Book Distributor What to Say on Sankirtana 

(From The Great Transcendental Adventure, June 29, 1974)

  One of Prabhupada’s young brahmacaridisciples entered with some incense. Dipak introduced him to Srila Prabhupada. “This is Gopinatha Acarya, one of your leading book distributors in Australia.”

  Prabhupada opened his eyes wide with interest. “Oh! So, what do you say to sell these books?”

  Gopinatha Acarya was already shy and unassuming. In Prabhupada’s presence he became even more so. Flustered, he blurted out what he knew was a foolish explanation, adding that he told his customers the books were about yoga and meditation.

  Prabhupada did not appear overly impressed with the boy’s description of his techniques. Yet he appeared thoughtful and compassionate. After a moment he said: “I think we should say like this:

These books will help to solve all the problems and miseries of life, and save you from so much suffering.”


And from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:

All the wealth in the three worlds cannot equal the value of one such nectarean fruit of devotional service.

Not considering who asked for it and who did not, nor who was fit and who unfit to receive it, Caitanya Mahaprabhu distributed the fruit of devotional service.

The transcendental gardener, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, distributed handful after handful of fruit in all directions, and when the poor, hungry people ate the fruit, the gardener smiled with great pleasure.

(Cc. Adi 9.28-30)

So I think that we can put these two lines together and adjust them slightly to something like this:

“All the money in the world cannot equal the value of even one of these books. They show you how to solve all your problems and become free from so much anxiety and stress.”

So everyone is anxiety in this material world, maya. So our Krsna consciousness movement is to take a person or all of them from this maya to Vaikuntha. That is the Krsna consciousness, to save the living entity from anxiety and bring him to the platform of no anxiety. That is the difference, from anxiety to no anxiety. That is the greatest gift to the human society. Everyone is full of anxiety because he is in this material world. He must be full of anxiety. (Mayapur 1975)

The word kriyasu, meaning “by manual labor” or “by work,” is important in this verse. One should engage in practical service to the Lord. In our Krsna consciousness movement, all our activities are concentrated upon distributing Krsna literature. This is very important. One may approach any person and induce him to read Krsna literature so that in the future he also may become a devotee. Such activities are recommended in this verse. Such activities will always remind the devotees of the Lord’s lotus feet. By fully concentrating on distributing books for Krsna, one is fully absorbed in Krsna. This is samadhi.

(SB 10.2.37 – Purport)


Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.44 — March 26, 1976, Delhi

präyeëa deva munayaù sva-vimukti-kämä
maunaà caranti vijane na parärtha-niñöhäù
naitän vihäya kåpaëän vimumukña eko
nänyaà tvad asya çaraëaà bhramato ‘nupaçye

My dear Lord Nrishinghadeva, I see that there are many saintly persons indeed, but they are interested only in their own deliverance. Not caring for the big cities and towns, they go to the Himalayas or the forest to meditate with vows of silence [mauna-vrata]. They are not interested in delivering others. As for me, however, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without Krsna consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus feet.

This is the conviction of a devotee perfectly convinced of this Krsna consciousness movement. The preachers who are preaching Krsna consciousness, they must be convinced that without accepting Krsna consciousness, nobody has any means of escaping these stringent laws of material nature. But unfortunately, the conditioned souls, although they are very, very much afflicted with the pressure of material nature, they have become callous. Every moment, every second, they are being controlled, and still they are thinking they can do anything and everything independently. So in this way they are suffering. But a learned, saintly person… Prahlada Maharaja, he thinks that “Without delivering these fallen souls, alone I am not prepared to go back to home, back to God.”

So here it is said krpanan. Krpanan means “These people, these conditioned souls, they are not endeavoring for liberation from this material world.” They are so callous, foolish, just like cats and dogs, eating, sleeping and mating. That is their happiness. So they are reluctant. Nobody is interested in Krsna consciousness. Therefore by the grace of Krsna you have to adopt such means that they may be interested a little about Krsna consciousness. Otherwise they are so dull and miserly, they do not understand that Krsna consciousness movement is very, very important for them. They have no sense even to understand. But the preacher who is Krsna conscious, he knows that without Krsna consciousness these people are condemned. They cannot be happy. They cannot be liberated. They will simply remain within this material world, accepting one body after another. And whichever material body we accept, it is meant for suffering. It is not meant for any happiness. The three kinds of material miseries—adhyätmika, adhibhautika, adhidaivika—he has to undergo.

So only the devotee, Krsna conscious devotee, he can deliver them. He goes from town to town, village to village, house to house, to bring this message of Krsna and deliver him. Prahlada Maharaja is promising: “I do not wish to go alone. Give me some strength so that I can deliver some of them. It is not possible to deliver all of them.” But that is a very important engagement for Vaishnava. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written, we can understand a Vaishnava very nicely when we see that he has converted so many conditioned soul into Vaishnava life. That is estimation of a Vaishnava. If I simply try for myself—I may be very advanced devotee—that is not very much appreciated by Krsna. Everyone is interested. There are gosthy-anandi and bhajananandi. Bhajananandi is interested for his own welfare, or they think it that he is not competent enough to preach; therefore he does not go for preaching work. “Let me look after my own affairs.” “Oil your own machine.” So this is another stage, and other stage is a devotee taking all risk, preaching for the benefit of the whole human society. He is called gosthy-anandi, increasing the number of devotees. That is preferred by Krsna.

It is said in the Bhagavad-gita, [Bg 18.68]: “Anyone who is engaged in preaching this confidential science of Bhagavad-gita, nobody is dearer to Me than he is.” So if you want very quickly recognition by Krsna, go on preaching Krsna consciousness. Even it is imperfectly done, but because you are sincere in whatever capacity you have got, if you preach, then Krsna will be very much pleased. I have seen practically. In my Guru Maharaja’s day there was a paper, Dainik Nadiya Prakash. It was being published daily, a piece of paper, just like I was publishing Back to Godhead. And if a small brahmacari would go to Navadvipa and would sell a few copies, one paisa a copy, that would be taken as a great preaching by Guru Maharaja: “Oh, you have sold five copies? Very good.” Because people are so reluctant—they are not at all interested in Krsna consciousness—therefore we become very much engladdened when we see that some of our books and literatures are sold. They will read and be benefited.

So this is the mission of high-class Vaishnava, how to preach Krsna consciousness among the suffering humanity. And this is the purport of this verse said by Prahlada Maharaja, and we are following the footprints of Prahlada Maharaja. Never mind even it is imperfectly done, we must execute the orders of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, yare dekha tare kaha krsna-upadesa [Cc Madhya 7.128].

I may not be so very expert in delivering the message of Krsna, but my duty is to try to my best capacity how to distribute this knowledge to the suffering humanity.

Thank you very much.

Devotees: Jaya Srila Prabhupada!!


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