Sankirtan Magic in Washington, DC
By Nimai Charan Agarwal, Germantown, MD
Magic… a word that has many contexts, meanings, and connotations. In America’s early childhood, it was used in the same line as darkness, evil, the Devil’s newfangled shiny red horn, the dark arcane arts that brought the practitioners to the stake. Over time, the meaning changed, but the core sense of mystery remained…until every storyteller found the treasure in the word and its essence was ground to Tartarus. The word magic remains today, to be one of the most used, or let me say “misused” words. Therefore I spent my time unsuccessfully trying to deviate my writing from the use of the word “Magic.” Finally, not being able to desist from that word any longer, I have come to truce with my mind to try and find the magic in the word so I can continue to use it in peace, free from the ill plaguing of my mind. Therefore, my search for real magic, not the phony baloney of flashy wizardry, will begin at the end of this sentence when my hand hits the emblazoned dot, also called the period, that it located at the lower right hand corner of my apple keyboard. Period.
I’m off to a boring start. Not much magic around here. All I see in the world is the humdrum of normality. The endless drone of cars hurrying on their everyday activities and sirens wailing, and I, the author, wailing as I sink into a bottomless pit of boredom and disillusionment. I had cleared through the average city life and hadn’t found any magical infestations yet, and to a hard hearted soul like me, seeing a cow graze was not much of a magical experience. I was starting to think that I really would have to fall down a rabbit hole to get all magical. Things were that bad. But of course, everybody knows that in story books, the best stuff happens when everything is at stake.
It was that day, or night, at a time I need not specify, on our drive back from the New Hastinapur temple (ISKCON Washington, DC) on 27th February this year, on a road I shall refrain from mentioning, that I heard about a wonderful thing – something that brought hope, mounted on a brilliant horse with its hands raised rushing back to my heart. I heard of the magic on Oaklyn drive.
Music is an international phenomenon. Music is a story. It tells of love, hate, anger, regret, devotion – all the known emotions a human knows of and many the artists themselves do not know. Anything can make sound, but only the great souls can give the sound a life. Even a computer can make music, as well as any handy smart phone or iPod. A man can spend their lives studying the notes and learning complex vocal maneuvers, but the sound can be dull and hollow. A robot’s clicking.
By comparison, the kirtan at the temple was a hymn of life and joy. The singer’s voice shook the temple of worship and the air was electric. The assembly swayed in one smooth movement with the mood of the kirtan. It looked as if the wind was flying through a meadow of lush grass. As the excitement grew, it felt like everybody was dancing high in the air, in mind. This was one of its kind. The singer imbued everybody with his energy. He did not sing a complex array of notes, nor did he sing with years of classical training behind him, he sang with devotion and heart behind his every note. And that lifted hearts off the ground, into the air. Wands away. This was real magic. The Kirtan ended in a shattering crescendo. Silence. The room was silent as the weight of the experience sunk in. People were stunned and happy.
Onward to the next magical event from the same evening. A mere thirty minutes later, Prabhu – wait a minute. I think It is time I reveal the name of this secreted individual. His grace Vaisesika Prabhu – the book distribution maestro from California.
We see commercials every day. People advertising hair lotions, chips, shoes, clothes, and even water. The methods can be crude. Nobody likes to be targeted by anxious advertisers, but what was about to happen was different. This was not a company trying to sell itself, this was an exchange of love and genuine care. An exchange of priceless items… The books of the Lord.
On that night, a spiritual market was opened in which those kings of literature were put on the front display for everyone in that room. Vaisesika Prabhu encouraged devotees to purchase a book set. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 – a devotee came up with an idea to put a ten second time frame to speed up the divine competition for books. 5, 4, 3 – a hand rose from the sea of people. A set of Bhagavatam gone. The count restarted each time a hand rose. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 – two hands rose. Couple of sets of Chaitanya Charitamrta sold. The number of hands increased as people became more open and enthused by each other. In less than ten minutes, 38 sets (25 Chaitanya Charitamrta and 13 Srimad Bhagavatam) were sold. Thirty eight. Three, eight. Sets, not books. It had to be a record. It was magic. Period.
Author, Nimai Charan Agarwal, is twelve years old and lives with his parents, Lokadhyaksa dasa and Vidarbhasuta devi dasi in Germantown, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. He visits the ISKCON Potomac temple. Nimai has been home schooled by his parents since the age of six. He loves to do Kirtan, play flute, read, write and do art.
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