Black Friday Sankirtan Festival
Times Square 11/25/16
“So this movement, Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, is a declaration of war with māyā. Declaration of war, but in a different way – by this chanting process: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare. The transcendental vibration will clarify the whole atmosphere, and as soon as these Kṛṣṇa conscious soldiers comes out victorious, the whole world will be peaceful.”
—Srila Prabhupada, March 30, 1971, in Bombay, India
All who attended experienced the great spiritual strength, sustenance, and inspiration that harinama sankirtan offers for the entire community. We were all united and brought together on the highest platform of truth. Perhaps the most ecstatic activity was chanting the maha-mantra with the public one-by-one on the subway ride home (see video).
This was a great start, but we want to increase the ocean of transcendental bliss. We want to distribute prasadam and books and have bigger sankirtan parties. Our next Sankirtan Festival is planned for New Year's Eve, and we invite everyone to come and join, whether directly in the sankirtan event or indirectly as a cook, a host, or with any other support. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Natabara Gauranga Dasa at (734) 355-1822 for more details.
After witnessing many japa retreats and sadhu sanghas, we planned a dynamic Sankirtan Festival in Times Square, maya’s capital in New York City, on Black Friday, November 25th, especially known as a famous day for shopping right after Thanksgiving. Thousands of souls came from all over the world looking for illusory pursuits, but we went with the hope of experiencing Lord Caitanya’s mercy together with them.
It was a collaborative effort with many different temples and devotees working together. It began with the cooks and pujaris of The Bhakti Center providing us a nourishing lunch feast. We then continued with a sit-down harinama for 4 hours in the 42nd St. – Times Square subway station.
For the final part of the festival, about 30 devotees from several New York temples, led a walking harinama for about three and a half hours in Times Square and all the way back to The Bhakti Center, concluding with a kirtan before Radha-Murlidhara and dinner. We came across thousands of New Yorkers and tourists, who were eager to sing and dance with us, take pictures, or participate directly and indirectly in other ways.
My Brothers and Sisters
Based on the realizations of His Grace Rameshvara Prabhu
Krishna consciousness is not a sentimental religion. To say “everyone is my brother or sister” sounds so simple and sentimental. But behind the appearance of such sentiments is the deepest philosophy in all the three worlds.
If we are not attentive and practiced in meditation, when we go outside the temple and start seeing the outside world, a very old habit in the soul will come back. This habit is to try to enjoy sense objects through whatever body we inhabit. This is the activity of every living entity in every different species of life. It wants to take whatever it sees, tastes, touches, etc., for its own enjoyment, imitating Krishna’s position. This desire is what brought the soul out of the spiritual world and into the material world.
But Krishna never stops loving the souls who want to forget Him and wants them to come back to the spiritual world. He expands Himself into unlimited eternal forms as the Paramatma in everyone’s heart so he can always watch over the soul, from body to body. To come to a human body, we have gone through millions and millions of births of trying to enjoy sense objects. In this life, we can question the purpose of human existence and the suffering of life in this world.
The soul has finally gotten a human body after so much hard work but is in this Kali-yuga. He is constantly bombarded and victimized by the culture of materialism in the Kali-yuga, where we want to have unrestricted sex and enjoyment and the only thing valued is the temporary acquisition of money, fame, and women. If this life is spoiled, it has to go back to the animal form and start the process all over again. This is reality.
With this philosophy, we learn to not judge others by their bodies. If we do, we will think: “Are they attractive or not? Are they intelligent or not?” That has nothing to do with who that person is – a part of Krishna just like us. Lord Paramatma is in their heart just like He is in our heart. This is sankirtan consciousness – it’s not a woman/man, old/young, fat/thin, attractive/ugly, rich/poor, etc.
It's a soul and a part of God just like us. This makes that soul a family member. That these souls are my brothers and sisters is not a cheap sentiment. This is a very deep realization and the highest truth. Every soul is a part of God, and God is staying with every soul because of how much He loves His parts and parcels.
If our family member is in a burning building, we rush in to help them. These forgetful souls are just like people burning in a house fire. If we see this when we go on Sankirtan, we are going to try to rescue them. Not like a salesman, but we genuinely want to help them. Sharing Srila Prabhupada's books and planting the seed of bhakti saves the soul a lifetime of bad karma. At the very least, these people will get a human birth, beginning where they left off by taking a book and giving a donation, which requires a human form of life.
We cannot imagine the happiness Krishna feels when He sees His devotee try to turn a sleeping soul He loves towards Him. That ecstasy is what the sankirtan devotee begins to experience. It’s an ocean of Krishna’s ecstatic love for His parts and parcels.
"This is Sankirtan consciousness – it’s not a woman/man, old/young, fat/thin, attractive/ugly, rich/poor, etc.
It’s a soul."
Book Distribution Highlights
By Vaisnava das and Bhakta Cesar
Going into the streets of New York to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books is a great adventure. When you see Krishna's transcendental system at work you become grateful for every second of it.
This young girl and her mother had seen the Harinam multiple times over the last few months and had picked up a Chant and be Happy book. After reading it, they were inspired to go deeper into japa meditation. On the final day of Kartik, they came by the Harinama and after offering lamps to Lord Damodara, asked if we had any beads for them.
They donated for 2 sets of beads and bags and I showed them how to chant on them. Seeing their joy and enthusiasm about receiving them was extremely rewarding.
I glorified God in the family's native language, “Allah Huakbar” (God is great).
She said she would be interested in books that would help her undestand Allah and the Quran.
Meanwhile, her 3 kids raided our book table and took all the candy Prasad that was there, filling their pockets and mouths and comparing whose stash was the biggest.
I told him he looks like the coolest cowboy ever. He was very enlivened by that comment and said,
"Man, whatchu got there?”
I told him it’s a book on “MEDitation” and asked for a “DONation.”
So he said alright and donated a dollar for an Easy Journey to Other Planets.
Even though she spoke no English she was happy to see the Harinama and came over to give a donation.
She took with her a Chinese Beyond Birth and Death.
I asked her, "You like love right? You love your child right?
She said, "Of course!"
Handing her the book, I said, "Here’s the art of eternal love!" (Subtitle of book "Bhakti Yoga")
The mother's baby reached for the book as she gladly gave a dollar.
I saw this young lady standing by the Harinama when I arrived and noticed she was looking with interest.
She shared that she already had a Science of Self Realization, a Bhagavad Gita, and the Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1 Part 1.
So I showed her the Isopanisad and she enthusiastically took home a copy.
We spontaneously crossed each other's eyes and he introduced himself by hugging me.
I asked him if he wanted to know about the wealth of India.
He eagerly gave a donation to sponsor Bhagavad-Gita's for others and buy books for himself.
She told me that she loved to read.
So I put a stack of Bhagavad Gita, Science of Self Realization, and Easy Journey to Other Planets in her hands and she happily took them.
I asked his girlfriend if he’s as cool as his beard makes him look.
His girlfriend said yes and then had to go take a phone call, while he laughed.
And then I said, "I don’t know if its your beard but you look very spiritual. Bro this is a super spiritual book. You’ve got to read it."
He said that he was interested in spirituality.
I found out that he used to live in Philadelphia and would eat at Govinda's restaurant all the time.
He was grateful to receive the
The workings of the Supersoul
By Bhakti Cesar
A young man offered us his respects as we were walking home from Harinama one night. He greeted us, "God bless you," and walked away.
A few minutes later, he ran to us again and said, "I need to stop and talk to you guys. I've been feeling empty in everything I do, like I've lost taste for this world."
I shared something I heard in a lecture with him. "There is this Christian preacher who says that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that nothing else can fill." I then explained how we practice devotional service to Krishna and that the only way to fill this hole is to bring God back into everything we do.
He was very grateful to hear this message and then offered to buy us a snack or drink, but I told him that it would be better for him to donate for a book as I took out the Journey of Self Discovery.
He gladly gave a $7 donation, everything he had in his wallet, and walked away with a smile.
Transcendental Book Distribution Ki Jai!
The Pizza that Delivers You
By Natabar Gauranga das
While performing Harinama Sankirtan in the Grand Central subway station, someone donated a large cheese pizza to us. Having already come with our lunch prasadam preparations, we offered it to Lord Chaitanya to bless and then distributed it to a few individuals passing by.
A few days later a homeless couple came up to the Harinama and started asking us some questions:
“What are you guys doing here?”
“We are chanting God’s names.”
“The person who is everywhere, who controls everything and is your best friend, that God?”
Then the girl said to the boy,
“You know the God we always talk about.”
Then they shared that we had given them their first hot meal that day when they received the large cheese pizza. Grateful for the meal and interested in our books and chanting, they sat near the Harinama for 3 hours while the boy read through a Chant and Be Happy book. It was the pizza that delivers you!