I like how Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is divided into four oceans and each ocean is further subdivided into waves, you don’t see it with any other book, somehow we are unique here even if materialists seem to have tried all possible combinations in story telling. Let me borrow a bit from BRS and talk about second wave of an ocean of saṅkīrtana, a second stage in being infected by a preaching bug.
Technically, the first wave is when a person who just turned to Kṛṣṇa can’t contain himself and tells everyone around him about it, challenging people to accept that there’s God because it’s the most natural thing there to see. Somehow logic and reason that atheists use to prove that God doesn’t exist but for new bhaktas same facilities point to God’s existence from any angle they look. They can’t usually convince anybody yet but seriously wonder how God’s presence is not obvious to non-believers.
There are reasons behind this inability to convert others but let’s not go there today, it’s not really preaching yet. This bug, however, is the first sign of love of God even though a person might be lifetimes away from developing it into something real. Then comes association with devotees and one gets instructions on how to preach properly, which often reduces to “don’t even try, let books do their magic.”
It doesn’t require a genius to figure out that on our own we are terrible at preaching and we have personally nothing to offer. Whatever works happens by the grace of guru and Kṛṣṇa, and specifically, but the grace of Śrīla Prabhupāda who gave people such wonderful books. We might not be able to convince anybody but reading even a single sentence from our books can turn people’s lives upside down, there’s no doubt about their potency, so all we have to do is to bring people and books together.
The downside to this realization is that we can now excuse ourselves and accept all kinds of dubious methods to put books into people’s hands. If they hold them, open them, look at the pictures, they are halfway there already, and to get that initial interest devotees invent all kinds of outrageous stories. They say these books are about yoga, āyurveda, history, travelling to other planets, secret knowledge withheld by the government, music, cooking, family planning, basically, whatever people want to hear.
When we deploy this strategy we, unfortunately, completely abandon the saṅkīrtana, we just hope people will somehow or other get the benefits at a later date, maybe years after buying the books. Maybe their family members, friends, or guests would incidentally notice them on the shelves and open them. This could happen, there are plenty of stories confirming it, but it’s not saṅkīrtana per se, it’s not discussing Lord’s glories with like minded people. In fact, we’d rather avoid talking about God at all and hide this topic from people we “preach” to.
Maybe this eventually gets to us, maybe there other reasons, but what normally happens is that devotees slowly lose interest in seeking association of random people in the streets in hope that they might have a nice chat about God. As I said yesterday, there’s usually a stage where devotees can’t stay in the temple and seek rush of saṅkīrtana outside, but then it almost inevitably passes.
If there have been no serious offenses then what happens is devotees start seeking the nectar elsewhere. Since we are still terrible at preaching we don’t quite feel the ecstasy and don’t feel we accomplished much. What “gets” us from that point on is telling others stories about saṅkīrtana and sharing our experiences. Quite often we get a lot more nectar from fellow devotees who appreciate what we are going through then actually being out there. Why wouldn’t it be so?
As we gradually progress in our devotion we finally start to appreciate the value of other devotees and start seeking their association over not-so-pleasant exchanges we get with strangers outside, even meeting the innocent people and turning them towards God feels less exciting than a few good moments in company of real devotees. We also develop the taste for hearing about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, or, more generally, the taste for hearing Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, not only Kṛṣṇa specifically.
Then we get to visit India and see Māyāpura and Vṛndāvana. Some get swept away, others only strenuously try to fall in love with dhāmas, but no one remains indifferent, even those who don’t like India very much wonder if there’s something wrong with them. Comparing to all those experiences, and they can be very, very powerful, going out and listening to abuse on the streets becomes abhorrent. Before that we thought abuse was directed at us and so we learned to tolerate it for the sake of cutting down our own ego but now we see it as offenses against the holy name and they become unacceptable.
I guess we get to that pippali khanda moment displayed by Lord Caitainya – we go to preach to save people but if they commit offenses they only condemn themselves. Pippali khanda is a medicine for curing cold but Lord Caitanya made an observation that administering it unexpectedly produced more mucus, which isn’t right. No one understood what he was talking about at the time but now we know that He decided to take sannyāsa so that ordinary folk were forced to hear whatever He had to say without any objections. He decided that his preaching should not generate offenses.
Same thing happens to us, I believe, though it might not be very pronounced. When we see how atheists treat devotees and hear abuse hurled at us, Kṛṣṇa, and Śrīla Prabhupāda, we think it’s not worth it and we should go about it in a different way. I don’t think we do it consciously but one way or another we decide to concentrate on preaching to devotees and to selected outsiders, men of power, culture, and caliber.
Of course not all of us get to this stage, most devotees get stuck doing something else, but I’m talking about the ideal course of progress, and we can see it in the lives of our leaders. They become senā-pati bhaktas, commanders-in-chief. They inspire thousands of devotees who, in turn, go and preach to ordinary people, exponentially increasing our outreach. They also get to meet dignitaries whose favorable impressions make the rest of the society well disposed towards our mission, too. This kind of preaching can create an incalculable value for time spent on it and I hope it all works out for the betterment of our mission at the end.
It makes sense to me, both tactically and strategically, and that’s why I decided to call it a “second wave of saṅkīrtana” today. It’s natural, it’s to be expected, and it shouldn’t be held against our leaders.