Rethinking Our Sankirtana Techniques
By Kesava Krsna Dasa
Is there a temple near us that is always asking for Laksmi and struggling to pay its bills? Are the residents of that temple so busy collecting Laksmi or are so engaged that they have little quality time for other devotees, let alone themselves? Is this true dependence on Krishna? Or is there another way?
In the excitement of depending on Krishna, we may think short-term, and simply live from day to day. “Krishna is maintaining me and reciprocating with my surrender by providing what I need, and allowing me to work hard every day to make ends meet…” Doesn’t this sound like an intonation for renunciates used to beg for alms?
It is said that poverty-stricken people are always busy, in fact too busy trying to make ends meet, that they have no time for matters of human culture. Could this apply to devotees as well, but in a spiritual way? And when donors or potential donors want to support us, but are reluctant to, because they wonder how their donations will be spent in a forever hard-up temple, is this an attractive way of preaching?
“In the material world, to be dependent on the mercy of someone else is the utmost sign of misfortune, but in the case of our transcendental relation with the Lord, it is the most fortunate case when we can live completely dependent on Him.” (TQK Chapter 20)
This temple example can apply across to our general ‘sankirtana’ efforts. Some donors identify with and expect a request for Laksmi each time a devotee calls or visits, rather than receiving some prime quality time to help enrich their spiritual lives or to strengthen valuable friendships. Is this a good reputation to uphold on behalf of Srila Prabhupada?
These perceptions and devotee stereotypes are created because we have taken dependence on Krishna to be short-term results oriented ‘sankirtana.’ Do these fit in with the “Intelligence and Organisation” means of sustaining a reputable worldwide body like Iskcon? Short-term ‘sankirtana’ is incompatible with compassionate outreach.
Would it deprive devotees of their dependence on Krishna if we were to change our ‘sankirtana’ techniques from day to day survival in favour of long-term methods that can reap more enduring sustenance? Would we be pre-empting the will of Krishna by doing this? Or can dependence on the Lord be done another way?
While it is true that the Lord will provide our needs if we surrender, but then – ye yatha mam prapadyante… He will only provide what we are organisationally capable of handling – not more, not less. If we are habituated to uncompassionate and short-term collecting methods, then we’ll surely be rewarded in kind – day to day. Yet trillions of pounds and dollars await service for the Lord. But again we say, ”Just go out on ‘sankirtana’… Krishna will provide… don’t waste time making friends… Laksmi will do…”
Compare this spirited acceptance with the complete dependence of the Pandavas, who were organised royalty: “The highest achievement of perfect civilization is to work with valor but at the same time depend completely on the Lord. The Pāṇḍavas were the ideal executors of this standard of civilization. Undoubtedly they were completely dependent on the good will of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, but they were not idle parasites of the Lord. They were all highly qualified both by personal character and by physical activities…” (TQK Chapter 20)
It would be extremely harsh to attribute “parasite” status to devotees collecting for the Lord, but it can appear that way in the public eye. While the Pandavas had tax revenue filling their treasury, we do not. But we can attempt “highly qualified” long-term “execution” of upping organisational standards.
“In the process of surrender (śaraṇāgati) there are six items. The first is that one should completely depend on Kṛṣṇa, and the next is that one should accept everything favorable for Kṛṣṇa’s service (ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ). Ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā: a symptom of first-class bhakti, devotional service, is that one accepts everything favorable for that service.” (TQK Chapter 20)
It would be natural that if we aspire for “first-class” organisational facilities to spread Krishna consciousness, then favourable “first-class” techniques symptomatic of well trained devotees are helpful. Such favourability can encourage our donors to give Laksmi to reputable and organised causes.
It can be argued that simply depending on short-term profit collecting also symptomizes a lack of faith in the Lord by substituting valour, quality and physical acitivities – we doubt that that Lord will provide dividends in the long-term based on quality.
Another may argue that without this dependence, how can we advance in Krishna consciousness? But this ‘begging’ or collecting is normally done by certain orders of the renounced order – not everyone in Iskcon is in the renounced order, and neither are we collectively known as beggars. Our Vedic and deep cultural base defies this notion, but our presentations can cause others to think we are of none-cultural shallow subsistence – beggars and collectors.
Without exhibiting true and genuine friendship and compassion to all we meet and preach to, and instead, simply show more interest in Laksmi, will continue to earn us these negativities. “Who cares…” some devotees will say. Irresponsible feelings as this add to such perceptions. At we can add more dignity to this.
Just as worldwide financial and corporate institutions are rethinking their strategies to persist in the long-term with ‘value or quality-based’ changes, we in Iskcon need to change our public frontage that reflects our concerns for people in general. Even to adapt friendship with the aim of earning long-term results is motivated.
The difference lies in what the donors and public perceive of us. If they appreciate us as genuine, they will come forward to help. If they perceive us as more than useful members of society, even if people are distant from us, they will help us as friends. Is there something that can distinguish genuine from motivated ‘sankirtana?’
“He is a perfect yogī who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna!” (BG 6. 32)
This equality may appear as – sama-darshi – awareness, but when applied in terms of friendship and practical connectivity, it can be functional from the madhyama level of preaching. In any case, Srila Prabhupada gave practicalities in his purport to BG 6.32:
“And because one in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is happy, he tries to distribute the knowledge of Kṛṣṇa everywhere. Since the perfect yogī tries to broadcast the importance of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious, he is the best philanthropist in the world, and he is the dearest servitor of the Lord. Na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ (Bg. 18.69). In other words, a devotee of the Lord always looks to the welfare of all living entities, and in this way he is factually the friend of everyone.” (BG6.32 purport)
If people see us in light of the above qualities, there is no hindering of their resources being directed for Iskcon. In case some are worried that receiving ample wealth will weaken us with undue temptations and so on, it shows all the more why we must improve our qualities all round to be able to handle it – ye yatha mam prapadyante…
“The Pāṇḍavas are most fortunate because with all good luck they were entirely dependent on the mercy of the Lord.” (TQK Chapter 20)
If we are fortunate enough to be entrusted by the Lord with ample resources, yet still be dependent on Him for everything, we can be reasonably confident some things are being done correctly. For this to happen we first have to treat well all those in and outside of Iskcon (public). Until such a time, should we keep ‘begging’ and expect a beggar’s reward?
Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa
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