It’d be criminal to miss the occasion of Gītā-jayanti when talking about saṅkīrtana. It so happens that every year Gītā-jayanti falls during Prabhupāda marathon, too. Is it a coincidence? Trick question.
For armchair experts in Kṛṣṇa consciousness there’s no significance of Gītā-jayanti and Prabhupāda marathon happening at the same time. Gītā-jayanti has been celebrated for thousands of years while we invented Prabhupāda marathon less than fifty years ago, it happens in December to take advantage of Christmas shopping spree in the West. There’s no relation there, it certainly wasn’t planned. While we do appreciate Gītā-jayanti as an important vaiṣṇava holiday our saṅkīrtana marathon runs on its own schedule.
Factually, this might be true – for armchair experts, but no saṅkīrtana devotee can allow himself to treat Gītā-jayanti this way. Coincidence or not, historical facts or not, but both Bhagavad Gītā and saṅkīrtana are manifestations of Lord’s mercy to fallen conditioned souls and saṅkīrtana runs on this mercy so you can’t seriously say that there’s no relation. Where others see a coincidence saṅkīrtana devotees see infusion of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy just when they need it the most. You don’t dismiss such help, you can’t afford to.
The argument can be made that while Gītā-jayanti itself was clearly a boon to the world, the annual remembrance of this occasion doesn’t have the same power. Well, let’s consider how it might work. Book distributors in India can basically shame anyone they meet into buying a Gītā on this day because every Indian knows he has to pay his dues to the Lord, it’s a one day in a year where they just can’t refuse.
In the West situation is obviously different, they have no idea what Gītā-jayanti is and feel no obligations about it whatsoever. Still, a devotee might tell them that this is Gītā’s birthday and it’s celebrated by hundreds of millions of people who appreciate Gītā’s message and that anyone can join in. Shaming people over birthday might work, if not on everyone but still there are those who feel more charitable on birthdays.
There’s a subtle way Gītā-jayanti might influence book distribution, too – it inspires book distributors themselves and so they carry the power of Lord’s inspiration with them. It definitely affects their preaching and affects everyone coming in contact with them. This appreciation for Lord’s delivery of Bhagavad Gītā might be the one last step that carries us over a line into the land where we finally become Lord Caitanya’s instruments rather than perpetual doubters. “Oh, Gītā-jayanti won’t work, it can’t work, it makes no sense – just see, let me approach that man and tell him about it, see how he doesn’t care, it’s all just a date in our calendar, it doesn’t have an effect on the rest of the world.”
Nope, it won’t work with an attitude like that and if we sense it in ourselves we should purge it immediately, we can’t allow it to nest in our minds. The gift of Gītā-jayanti works for those who humbly take all the help from the Lord that is offered and know that even a tiny drop of it can change people’s lives forever. When devotees realize its value themselves they can easily convince others to appreciate it, too.
There could be a yet subtler way that Gītā-jayanti matters – by changing the invisible force that runs the universe. A slight change in how guṇas operate might create a slightly different atmosphere that becomes conducive to discussing spiritual topics. People’s minds might become more receptive, some dirt in their consciousness that is blocking their spiritual advancement might be removed – we can’t see any of these things but they are entirely possible.
Finally, on the occasion of Gītā-jayanti the Supersoul Himself can simply urge people from within to buy the books from us. Somewhat crude but irresistible, and saṅkīrtana devotees know that it might easily happen by the grace of Lord Caitanya. That’s why they would never ever turn away such a self-manifested opportunity to pray for extra mercy as Gītā-jayanti.
I would also argue that Gītā-jayanti is a true saṅkīrtana holiday. Various incarnations and ācāryas could be considered patrons of various aspects of devotional service, Lord Nṛsiṁha, for example, offers us physical protection, Śrīla Gaurakiśora Dāsa Bābājī offers shelter to renunciates, and so on. In the same vein saṅkīrtana devotees are sons of Bhagavad Gītā.
It’s the most important among our books for general population, all our preaching to people on the streets is done from Bhagavad Gītā, not from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam or Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Kṛṣṇa delivering Bhagavad Gītā to Arjuna was exactly the aspect of His personality that eventually manifested Lord Caitanya Himself, at least as far as His saṅkīrtana movement is concerned.
Here’s another thing to consider in this regard – there were two reasons for Lord Caitanya’s appearance, inaugurating the saṅkīrtana movement being the external one and experiencing devotee’s love for God being the internal and therefore the more important one. Our first reaction is to go for the best and think of saṅkīrtana as being lesser, but saṅkīrtana devotees embrace their mission with true humility in their hearts and realize that lesser or not, but the drops of this mercy coming their way is all they ever need in their lives.
People might argue about saṅkīrtana being inferior all they want but it delivers. Their artificial attempts to taste the “higher” nectar is self-delusion and nothing else. A truly humble devotee does not grab the best service but takes whatever is ordered, and our orders are to preach. As long as we are in these bodies that’s what we should do, if later on the Lord will require something different it doesn’t matter now. The argument can also be made that by taking the most insignificant service as our life and soul we please guru and Kṛṣṇa much better than trying to be big, important, and indispensable.
Saṅkīrtana devotee knows that he is totally dispensable and has absolutely no value to anyone without Lord’s mercy flowing through his body to the public. He won’t abandon this service no matter what, not for any promises of higher rasa if he’d just give it up and read about Kṛṣṇa’s intimate pastimes. It’s nonsense to even consider this proposition, it might impress only those who lack humility and have no access to Lord Caitanya’s mercy of saṅkīrtana whatsoever. Deprived of actual spiritual realization of being in service to saṅkīrtana they invent poor substitutees, that’s all.
I’ll just add that Kṛṣṇa Himself says at the end of the Gītā that there’s no more dear devotee to Him than they one who peaches this message to others (BG 18.69). We might also consider a couple of preceding verses clarifying what exactly Kṛṣṇa meant by preaching there (BG 18.67):
This conﬁdential knowledge may never be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted, or engaged in devotional service, nor to one who is envious of Me.
Hmm, this clarification needs a separate explanation of how it should be applied practically, so I’ll just leave it here as a warning first.