The First Traveling Sankirtan (Book Distribution) Party
The 100 degree fever of Sankirtana in the early 1970s in America can only be described as an epidemic.
At one point, when we were completely out of Books, waiting for Dai Nippon’s shipment of Krsna Books to arrive, the leader on the west coast, the pre-GBC mega-authority was Karandhara.
His office was in the breezeway of the Temple in New Dvaraka. During mangal arti, the rumor spread that there were 100 cases of Krsna Books stashed in Karandhara’s office.
That they were Karandhara’s personal property, that they were earmarked for some lofty and important purpose, that he was the “ultimate power” meant absolutely nothing to us-Buddhimanta and the Gang from New Jagannatha Puri, San Francisco.
We mercilessly, without the least consideration for the exalted position of Karandhara, without the least considereration for the extensive damage, we mercilessly broke down his door, splintered it into tooth picks and took every single book and went on a three day Book Distribution Marathon.
By that time, the shipment of fresh Books arrived and the fever spread further and further.
Buddhimanta, you must keep in mind, was the total personification of Maha “outrageousness.” Everything he did, every word he spoke, every gesture, every thought of his should have been filmed for posterity.
Buddhimanta was very handsome, 6’1″, 180 pounds, with an impish grin and reddish blond hair…like the American movie star, Robert Redford.
Buddhimanta was 100% convinced of only one thing: that Srila Prabhupada was the embodiment of the Absolute Truth-that there was no need to look any further. The ONLY need was to Distribute Prabhupada’s Books.
The first Traveling Sankirtana Party, to my knowledge, left San Francisco Temple, New Jagannatha Puri in the Summer of 1971.
It consisted of about 15 brahmacaris crammed into two vehicles. We were out for about 3 and half weeks and distributed an “astounding number” of Back To Godhead Magazines, 3000.
On the last day, the 25 day of our austerity, the day before returning to New Jagannatha Puri Temple, we ended up in the East Bay just north of Oakland in a tract of split level executive homes-nicely landscaped yards, clean streets, lots of trees.
Arriving just as darkenss fell, about 8PM on a pleasant Saturday evening, we piled out of both cars, sikas trailing, dhotis blowing, shouting “Hari Bol”, we descended upon this peaceful community like a hurricane.
We ran “Hari Boling” from door to door, distributing as many of Srila Prabhupada’s Books as possible and running to the next house.
After an hour, we were on fire. Buddhimanta especially. He ran up to a door and RANG the bell.
There he stood, taking up the entire doorway space, eyes bugging out, sweating profusely, neck beads taught against his throat, and fire engine red-faced.
“HARE KRSNA,” he announced to the bewildered housewife who unwittingly opened the door. His eyes bugged. His neck beads strained.
She took one look at this escaped lunatic from the Nut House in Goloka Vrndavana and fainted dead away on the spot.
It only took about 5 minutes for a thousand police sirens to split the calm air.
The surrounded us. They had us. It looked bad. But they didn’t know exactly what to do with us. We didn’t really do anything wrong.
So they didn’t take us to jail. The DID talk to Buddhimanta for about 30 minutes to make certain that even though he looked and acted spirtually insane, that he was infact, OK, not violent, and harmless.
Stuff like this happened in the days of the Sankirtana Revolution in America.
Long may the Flag of Sankirtana Book Distribution wave.