Reply to a Bengali Brahmin

May 29, 2014 |

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Question: Why is the term 'sankirtan devotees' so commonly used in ISKCON nowadays to address book/prasadam distributors? As I understood it from HDG Srila Prabhupada's books, we are all supposed to be sankirtan devotees, because we are part of Sri Caitanya's sankirtan mission. Not being a 'sankirtan devotee' is fatal in this respect. I looked through the Vedabase and Srila Prabhupada… Expand>

Question:

Why is the term 'sankirtan devotees' so commonly used in ISKCON nowadays to address book/prasadam distributors? As I understood it from HDG Srila Prabhupada's books, we are all supposed to be sankirtan devotees, because we are part of Sri Caitanya's sankirtan mission. Not being a 'sankirtan devotee' is fatal in this respect. I looked through the Vedabase and Srila Prabhupada never used the term himself, which is kind of suspicious. Thank you very much for clarification.

Answer by HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami:

Well, I’ve never heard it used for prasādam distributors, but it’s commonly used of book distributors within my understanding; maybe for prasādam distributors also. Yes, we are all supposed to be members of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprahu’s saṅkīrtana movement, under the guidance of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda ascribed the term saṅkīrtana to distribution of his books and books that are meant for awakening people to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, because it’s all part of the preaching mission. Kīrtana means to glorify Kṛṣṇa. Saṅkīrtana means preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So I wouldn’t make a big thing out of this. It’s just like we are all members of the saṅkīrtana movement, but within that movement some devotees are called pūjārī, because they do the service of pūjā. We are all supposed to worship Kṛṣṇa, but those who do so as a specialised service, they’re called pūjārī. Those whose specific service is to cook for Kṛṣṇa, they may be called the cooks. That doesn’t mean that no one else can cook. But because they do that specific service that is referred to them, they are referred to as that. So specifically those who perform book distribution, within my experience, they are called saṅkīrtana devotees. I don’t know if Śrīla Prabhupāda used that term, but it was commonly used in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presence. He didn’t object to that. So we may do so. 

Prasādam distribution is also good, but it’s not a function of praising Kṛṣṇa exactly, as the books are so. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch to call those who are distributing prasādam saṅkīrtana devotees, although if you want to be generous, you can call everyone a saṅkīrtana devotee. But then, there would be no need. You could just call them devotees. So, anyway, I wouldn’t make a big thing out of this. 

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