March 1st, 2019
By His Grace Rama Raya Prabhu
Dear Devotees, Prabhus, Friends,
We are writing the Sankirtan Address for March. We had a tremendous Christmas Marathon where we distributed in 40 days time over 10,000 books. Personally, I have been very busy since we moved in to the new house in October to get everything established. After a very long time, I was able to have the opportunity to visit my spiritual master Satsvarupa Dasa Gosvami who is living in upstate New York. He is writing a journal and while he was there he wrote about the New York City harinam party. Because I think it is very nice and beautiful I would like to share it with all of you.
"February 8 2019
Rama Raya is taking a break from the New York City harinam party and visiting us in Viraha Bhavan. His party is doing very well. They have a new building in Manhattan and they house anywhere between 8 and 18 brahmacharis. They go out for 6 hours everyday and chant and distribute books. In the winter when it is too cold to go outside, they go in the subway and do their yajna. They held a book distribution marathon from Thanksgiving through New Years Day and distributed over 10,000 books during that period. They made a package of 7 big books, the main books of Srila Prabhupada - Krsna Book, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Nectar of Devotion, Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1 Part 1, Science of Self-Realization, and Journey of Self Discovery – tied them in gift wrapping ribbon and sold them in that way. It is amazing how many books they sold in the subway.
They are a very austere and enthusiastic group. Different leaders take turns trading off and singing throughout the day. They are very well situated in their new townhouse which is in a residential area in a decent neighborhood of Manhattan. They are in the Upper Westside a few minutes from the Hudson River and Riverside Park.
Rama Raya showed me photos of the book distributors posing with people who bought the Christmas wrapped pile of books. He also showed me the fundraising video that was made with him and Visnu-citta prabhu appealing for devotees to help support the mission. Rama Raya’s party has opened a new big door with harinam and book distribution in New York City. The two forms of preaching go together. The book distributors wear traditional devotional clothing and stay close to the chanting party. They are seen as one by the public.
So much depends on the party maintaining purity. The sankirtan building houses only brahmacaris. The purity is not only during the six hours while they are chanting in public but it includes their entire life. The devotees rise early in the morning, observe mangla arati, chant their japa, have Srimad Bhagavatam class and are very determined in the reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
The devotees have different reading and chanting vows. Some are Vaisesika Prabhu’s disciples and they follow his example of reading 40 pages a day of the Bhagavatam with the idea that the Bhagavatam can be completed in that way in one year. Others maintain numerical strength in their japa. They are accountable to one another all throughout the day. It is not that one of them can go off on his own. The devotees not only perform austerities but they cultivate personal relationships among themselves.
One cannot overestimate the good that is being performed by the harinam party. If we believe in the scriptures, the loud chanting of the harinam party of the maha mantra in public can counter the evils of Kali Yuga. It is no small thing. It is the greatest welfare work for society. Every day many people get to hear the holy names and receive books. I remember the first harinams in New York City going out to chant in Tompkins Square Park. Prabhupada led the chanting for 3 hours and then gave a short speech while standing under the Hare Krishna tree.
In the early years in Boston, we would go out in the good weather to the Boston Commons. 20 or 30 devotees men and women would go out and sing enthusiastically while a crowd gathered. We followed Prabhupada’s Tompkins square park formula of chanting for hours then giving a small speech unless the crowd was too roudy in which case Prabhupada told us to go on chanting. We circulated the crowd asking for donations and distributing back to godhead magazines and chapters of the Bhagavatam that were printed by ISKCON Press in the Boston temple. During the early years, this was the standard program in ISKCON as authorized by Srila Prabhupada: chanting in public, distributing prasadam, and selling books.
Rama Raya’s party and others like it have retained the simple pure presentation by sticking to harinam and book distribution. I have a soft spot for the original program which Prabhupada led us on by going out to Tompkins Square Park in which party’s like Rama Raya’s and others are carrying out in an uncompromised pure spirit."
So continuing the enthusiasm from the Prabhupada Christmas marathon we are still distributing sets of books. We call them sapta rsis when they are in 7. The Prabhupada Lilamrita is also 7 volumes and sometimes people take them back to back - 14 in that case - and we call it a Nrsingha Caturdasi.
So we have made a new blogspot where you can look and see the sankirtan stories – it is updated daily (https://yugadharmanyc.blogspot.com). We take pictures with the people who buy the books. It is very very enlivening and interesting. And we are maintaining and even increasing the amount of book distribution over Christmas time. This is proof that Lord Caitanya says in the Siksastakam -ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaḿ prati-padaḿ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaḿ - the sankirtan movement, the spiritual energy is ever-increasing and expanding and ever blissful.
So we thank all of our supporters and friends. Please continue to give us your support. We are looking forward to a wonderful year in 2019 making Krishna consciousness in new York city expand more and more through harinam and transcendental book distribution. Thank you very much. Nitai Gaura premanande! All glories to Srila Prabhupada! Hare Krishna!