Book distribution should be fun. If it’s not fun, you are not doing it right, plain and simple, according to Parthasarathi Dasa, the inspiration and organizer of Sankirtan Saturdays.
This is so much the mood for this event that it doesn’t surprise anyone that Parthasarathi makes it his mission to ensure that everyone has a good time. He joins alongside them in their attempts and coaches them after a failed distribution attempt. He makes jokes all day long, mostly at his own expense, and stays positive no matter what the situation.
On Saturday, November 14, in the Maastricht City shopping center in Holland 22 devotees distributed books: Bhaktivedanta College students, Radhadesh devotees, and visiting devotees from Belgium, including Gopal, the youngest (age eight), most enthusiastic devotee. They unloaded their smile ammunition at the unknowing weekend shopping crowd. This is the second installment of the Sankirtan Saturday event, so the excitement has only begun.
The rain never stopped pouring, from the moment we stepped into the cars, till the moment we left. Our feet were wet and cold, but our hearts and bellies were full of warmth. Our hearts became filled with hope and compassion for the early-bird shoppers of the grey, stormy city. We were ready to give them our own life, if they would only take a book, no touch a book, no even just a glance at a book. Our bellies were filled with spiritual food: delicately made, Indian-filled calzonis, sweet fruit and nut balls, and mini box juices (homemade lunch that our moms couldn’t of packed better themselves).
Books were moving slowly, but that is not to say that the mission was unsuccessful. What a success it was! It was Karttik month, the most auspicious and mercy-laden time of the year, the time that all lights are green, all guards down—Krishna is ours for the taking (and giving). So these wandering souls just wandered their way right into Krishna’s aspiring devotees’ palms, and all they had to do was stop. Stop walking, stop window-shopping—just stop. And there we were, waiting to scoop them up from their unknown miseries and give them the real thing they were searching and shopping for, love of God!
Some of us used some silly lines to get their glance, “Hey, are you a student, a worker, or a movie star?” Some would ask people how they were doing or where they were from to get them to stop and feel comfortable, while others went straight to the point: “Can I give you a book today? It is really great!” The result was the same: the person was a step (or was it a thousand steps because of Kartik?) closer to Krishna, and the preachers were one ounce lighter (or was it a thousand ounces lighter . . .) because of being freed of their false ego.
As the series goes, the Friday evening is spent inspiring the devotees for the battlefield they are about to enter: Mercy vs. Maya. Stories of failure and defeat by devotees on all levels (of course, it is most inspiring when it is about very elevated devotees who were failing); anecdotes from Parthasarati’s own fictionlike life story, and others who were participants in the previous or other group events.
The beauty and lure of the Sankirtan Saturday event is that it is a group win or loss. Everyone supports each other; some pair up to approach people with the transcendental time bombs, and others meet up with each other as they infiltrate the streets and reloading their enthusiasm ammo throughout the day. And everyone walks away feeling proud to be part of the group, no matter what the tallies on the scorecard.
O sankirtan! What an intense game of secret bombing Battleship it is! (If you don’t know the game, you can Google it.)
By Kumari Dasi Sherreitt