Bus party experience
By Chaitanya Chandra Das
Recently we commenced monthly book distribution venture by our temple bus in the interiors of Maharashtra, India. It is really an exhilarating experience to realize Srila Prabhupada’s statement in Srimad Bhgavatam
It is the duty of a mendicant (parivräjakäcärya) to experience all varieties of God’s creation by traveling through all forests, hills, towns, villages, etc., 1)to gain faith in God and 2)strength of mind as well as 3)to enlighten the inhabitants with the message of God. SB1.6.13
1) Gain faith in God:-
When we travel we are impelled to depend on Lord. While staying at different places every day we get to feel the hand of God in our lives especially when you are doing His work. For those who are born and brought up in cities experience of village life is something inimitable. We have experienced how miraculously our food and shelter is arranged at various places. Even animals in the forest get what they require then why God will not provide to those who are doing His work? Our itinerary is that in the early morning we take bath in nearby river or pond. The cook does cooking in the bus. After the nourishing morning program which includes Mangal Arti, Narsimha Arti, Tulasi Arti and Chanting, we honor breakfast and rush for book distribution as villagers depart for their fields by 10 AM. So we need to catch them before that. At the entry in the village we announce about the books and put up a stall. Many people gather around the stall while other devotees go door to door for distribution. We only halt at one village for 10- 15 mins max. Our formula is “Spread the net wide” OR “Find interested people rather than creating interest in people” Afternoon we take break under some tree. The cook prepares delicious lunch meanwhile. After sumptuous lunch we take nap followed by Brahmacari Class. Again we set out for second session of book distribution. At dusk we search for some local temple to stay in the night. Then we go to bed early exhausted & gratified. Village atmosphere is quiet charming and rewarding. For 7 days in a month we stay in the lap of Mother Nature. Even God Himself prefers staying in simple Vrindavan setting rather than opulent metropolis like Mathura or Dwaraka. The propensity to stay close to nature is in God Himself hence it is found in everyone of us. Although wealthy people have their base in cities they have their personal residence at countryside. It is very easy to gain faith on father ‘God’ by staying close to mother ‘nature.
2) Gain strength of mind:-
By experiencing the variety in the nature one can feel one’s mind becoming resilient. The ability to tackle different situations while travelling fortifies one’s will. If we see the practice of devotional service depends largely on the strength of mind. Mind is the greatest adversary if uncontrolled and the best comrade if controlled.
uddhared ätmanätmänaà nätmänam avasädayet ätmaiva hy ätmano bandhur ätmaiva ripur ätmanaù
One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well. BG 6.5
Mind can turn hell into heaven and heaven into hell. So a strong mind or controlled mind is very essential in practice of devotional service. Not only the body but our mind also becomes strong by exposing ourselves to natural elements. Of course mercy is also important factor in Bhakti. But Srila Prabhupada once said “If we have no determination then even Krishna cannot help”
3) Enlighten the inhabitants:-
Along with gaining faith in God and strength of mind most valuable service of distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books to masses is being done. We ourselves get to realize the importance of devotional service while giving it to others. We meet people staying in sequestered places where they never have met any devotee and will never probably meet another. When Prabhupada’s book enters their dark den it illuminates their hearts along with their home. Once the director of a pharmaceutical company observed that his production is going down. He found out that the employees manufacturing the medicines are not putting their heart in the work. So he thought of an idea. He told them to go out and distribute the medicines to patients. After few days he saw the production has doubled! The reason was when the employees went for distribution of the medicines they observed how desperate the patients were to receive the medicines. For them it meant difference between life and death. Hence the employees realized the importance of their work and started manufacturing the medicines with redoubled efforts. Similarly when we go out for distribution of books we meet people who are in darkest of ignorance. But when they receive the book their life bears a paradigm shift. That only increases our conviction in practice of Devotional service and outreaching. When we take treatment from some doctor and our chronic disease gets miraculously cured we unconsciously preach about the doctor’s effectiveness to whomever is sick. Similarly as we have benefitted from the medicine of Krishna consciousness we should share it with others so that others can also benefit. Only one who has not benefitted from the process will not endeavor to outreach. Lord Chaitanya has told the process of Devotional Service is Kevala Ananda kanda(pure happiness ). And the process of spreading this Ananda is double Ananda. Hence Srila Prabhupada said Preaching is the essence.
Life is short. And the task at hand is great i.e to become fit to go home Back To Godhead. For that we need to become dear to Krishna then He will call us. And the easiest way of pleasing Krishna is –
na ca tasmän manuñyeñu kaçcin me priya-kåttamaù bhavitä na ca me tasmäd anyaù priyataro bhuvi
There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he(who preaches the knowledge of Me to others), nor will there ever be one more dear. BG 18.69
A pilot of a commercial plane doesn’t have to have a ticket for flying as he is carrying others to the destination. Hence his reaching is assured without much endeavors. Similarly for a Sankirtan devotee going Back To Godhead is assured because he is showing way to others.
Martin Luther King rightly said “Unless one has something in life to die for then there is nothing in his life to live for”. Preaching is such an exciting activity that one can die for it. While preaching we are put on field to test. And it is during such tests that we develop taste for Bhakti. People want to experience variety in life hence they do variety of activities. The problem is through the variety of activities the experience they get is same. Hence they get bored after some time. For a devotee the activities are same but the experience is different every time. For. E.g devotees activities are chanting, hearing, reading, serving,etc. but while doing these repetitive activities they get different and deeper experience every time. But What if option is given – different activities with different and deeper experience! Best of both! Preaching is like that you need to approach people in different ways according to time, place, circumstances and you get different experience every time. As the saying goes – Great people do not do great things they do small things in great ways.
Relationship sometimes get strained amongst devotees. Going out on Sankirtan for days resolves the relationship problem which is otherwise difficult to solve. Just like walking is a good exercise by which many diseases are cured. Walking is like refurbishing the body. Body becomes dynamic. Similarly is preaching. Things that concerns or irritates us can be overcome easily by going out on Sankirtan.
In a month we go out for 7 days for book distribution. Till now we visited places like Nasik, Satara, Pandharpur, Velhe, Mahabaleshvar etc. During Prabhupada times everyone would go for book distribution – WSF(Weekly Sankirtan Festival). Going out and giving Krishna to others is every devotee’s duty. But simultaneously if not more important but equally important is own nourishment i.e. sadhana which includes hearing, chanting, associating with equals. Sadhana develops our attitude. This is balance. Activity and attitude. At the time of creation Rudras creating havoc instead of civilized progeny is example of Activity without Attitude. Babajis or Bhajananandis is example of Attitude without activity. Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur said “We should be Bhajananandis who likes to preach” Many book distributors left the movement because they focused on the activity not the attitude or Sadhana.
Our reach should exceed our grasp. Aim high. If we aim at just surviving in Bhakti then we will surely not. But if we aim at thriving then we will be surviving. The activity of Sankirtan is like thriving. If one wants to rise above mental platform one should do outreach. Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur used say “Pranan hetu se pracara” one who has life will outreach. Worry about others problems that will burry our problems. Rolling stone gathers no moss.
Once devotees told Prabhupada that “Prabhupada you are the heart of ISKCON”
Prabhupada replied, “My heart is book distribution”
And if we want to be situated in Prabhupada’s heart then we should go out regularly on Sankirtan.
Constant remembrance of the lotus feet of the Lord is possible only when one engages in active devotional service. – Srila Prabhupada Mukunda mala Stotra mantra 3