By Antony Brennan for ISKCON News: “We need a grass roots revolution,” said the late Aindra Dasa, head of the 24 Hour Kirtan Department in Vrindavana, India. “That means YOU and ME. I’m part of the grass roots. For years, at least 21 years, I’ve personally been here trying to somehow or other bring it to the attention of the lay devotees.
“Nama Sankirtana [chanting of God’s names] will come back, I guarantee it,” he continued. “With the co-operation of a few good people who are willing to step forward in their various localities all over the world to help to generate that faith, that consciousness in the Holy Name. So please help, wherever you may go, and do the real thing to actually implement the Yuga Dharma.”
In 1993, the kirtan album Vrindavana Mellows by Aindra, Madhava and friends, came out and, according to many, took the devotee world by storm. The album, followed by a series of equally popular recordings, created what Madhava calls “a kirtan revolution.” Devotees around the world became so interested in kirtan that this musical form was also taken up and popularised by many non-devotees.
Since the passing of Aindra Dasa earlier this year, many second generation Australian devotees seem to have taken up the karatals and added fuel to the fire of the kirtan revolution. A series of 24 Hour Kirtans has drawn people from around the country creating a serious desire in the hearts of many to get out on the streets.
Taking their lead from Aindra Dasa, they call this the Grassroots Harinama Sankirtan Revolution. It’s a grassroots movement because the motivation comes from the bottom up. No-one in particular is directing the effort, but groups of devotees are taking it upon themselves to bring back the Harinam culture which older devotees talk about.
“Australia is definitely experiencing a grass roots Harinama Sankirtan revolution,” says Krishnapada Dasa, who helps organise Harinam Sankirtan around Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia. Krishnapada maintains that Aindra’s passing is certainly the motivating factor. Aindra had pressed all the devotees he met with to “implement the Yuga Dharma.” He was telling everyone to perform Harinam Sankirtan.
“Seeing groups of devotees on the streets is certainly evidence that something is occurring,” Krishnapada says. “Generally these devotees have an invested faith in the chanting of the Holy Names. Their lives have been positively affected by the chanting and they naturally want to share their joy with others.”
“Here in Vrindavana, people come to the temple,” Aindra said. “We can chant here, but you guys have to go out—in the west they are not willing to come to the temple, you must go out to chant.” Aindra believed what Srila Prabhupada taught, that when non-devotees see the devotees happily chanting the Holy Names it is a very powerful method of outreach.
“Performance of Nama-bhajan in the Temple is for one’s own personal purification,” Krishnapada Dasa says. “But a Vaishnava cannot bear to see the suffering of others, therefore they take the chanting to the streets in a sincere effort to appease suffering and to introduce people to their ever well-wishers Radha and Krishna via the medium of Their Holy Names.”
In all of Australia’s major cities there are regular Harinam Sankirtan parties going out. The revolution is small but it is attracting the attention of all devotees and moving something deep in the hearts of those who know what it is about.
When asked what devotees should do to get involved, Krishnapada says: “Get fired up and associate with others who recognise the importance of Harinama Sankirtan. Devotees should enlist those in their local temple. If they are not within reasonable vicinity of a Temple, then they can start their own Harinama Sankirtan Party. All you need is two devotees with vocals and sincerity.”
Krishnapada continues: “In the words of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ‘There are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names.’ Mahaprabhu broke open the storehouse of love of God and distributed the contents to all regardless of their qualifications or lack thereof.”
In planning to join the grassroots revolution, Krishnapada says, “Devotees should think about pleasing Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya by sincerely endeavouring to give others a taste for the Holy Names. They should present themselves in an attractive way by chanting simply and sweetly so other can follow and participate.
“Dancing should be uniform and dress standards should be clean and tasteful,” he adds. “Smiling is a powerful weapon, along with the distribution of sanctified Prasadam food and Srila Prabhupada’s books.”
In your city, there may be regulations regarding street performances. “Firstly, contact your local council and work within their guidelines so as to establish a healthy relationship. Be conscious of local laws,” Krishnapada says. “Do not be attached to the results. Go out consistently and in an enthusiastic mood.”
Krishnapada quotes a letter from Srila Prabhupada to Madhudvisa in October 1970 for support: “I am so much pleased that you are carrying on the Street Sankirtana Party as we have instituted in the Western countries even though you have sometimes only one companion. This spirit is most satisfactory and this work is proven as the basis of our successful movement in the United States, so please go on more enthusiastically than ever with my blessings and you may rest assured that Krsna will always help you in any difficulty.”
Nimai Hawkins has been instrumental in organising the most recent 24 Hour Kirtan Festival at New Gokula farm in Millfied, News South Wales, Australia. Many devotees gathered there and gave their all, during the entire event, to the thundering kirtan.
The organization of the 24 Hour Kirtan took a great deal of effort, but it was worth it to inspire devotees on a mass scale. “Many individuals stepped up to the task of putting on a great 24 hours of Kirtan and I am indebted to them,” Nimai says. “Over three months I sent out over 400 hundred emails to organize the event.
“I felt the festival was a success for one standout reason,” he continues. “Everyone gave kirtan everything they had. I am 1000% behind the Harinam sankirtan revolution. There is not a flicker of doubt in my mind that this is the only way to save not just our society but the entire world from the perils of the onslaught of the modern age. I am seeing all my friends who were just a year or so ago not so interested in Krishna consciousness pursue chanting with a determination unrivaled anywhere in the world.”
To those who might be toying with the idea of organising a 24 Hour Kirtan or getting out into the street Nimai says, “Go all out, spare no expense, spare no moment of lethargy. Be a warrior, a revolutionary, change the world now, you won’t ever regret it or forget it. All devotees should pursue a life of Harinam Sankirtan in the close, intimate devotee assocation of 24 hour kirtans, or in the revolutionary spirit of saving the world on Harinam.”
Bring on the grassroots Harinama Sankirtana revolution. Join a Sankirtan party or start your own. It’s up to you now.