Vishnujana Swami: Chanting Hare Krishna on the Street 8-10 Hours DAILY!
In the early days sankirtan [chanting Hare Krishna and distributing books in public] is everybody’s prime function. All the devotees are inspired by Vishnujana’s love and dedication to sankirtan. After lunch prasadam he takes out the sankirtan party.
Everyone enthusiastically crowds into the van for the drive to downtown LA in front of Bullock’s Department Store at Seventh and Broadway. The area is dirty and congested and not a very nice place to go, but it’s where almost every other religious group in Los Angeles converges to compete for customers.
As the devotees stand along the street near the corner bus stop, Vishnujana begins plucking his tamboura in an ancient drone, chanting the guru-pranama mantras before leading into the kirtan. The devotees chant in response, and some begin collecting change with their conch shells. Soon the ecstatic chanting and dancing attracts the otherwise preoccupied shoppers in downtown Los Angeles. Thousands of persons get the benefit of hearing Lord Krishna’s Holy Name. As Vishnujana sways back and forth, singing so melodiously with the tamboura, the devotees are reminded of the painting back at the temple of Narada Muni playing his transcendental vina. Vishnujana is so attractive that people stop to watch, and devotees approach them with BTGs and invitations to the Sunday Love Feast.
As the kirtan gets going, Vishnujana switches to mrdanga. Though he always wears gloves to protect his hands, after three or four hours of continuous playing they begin to bleed. But he just continues chanting all afternoon, beating away incessantly on the drum as if in a trance. Even when it rains, he carries on chanting and the devotees chant along with him.
From time to time he stops to preach to the crowd. Occasionally, he calls the devotees together to tell them Krishna stories or to talk about Prabhupada. He brings his festive mood to a very obnoxious place, downtown LA, but due to the presence of the Holy Name the atmosphere is immediately spiritualized.
Most devotees spend at least some time distributing magazines, but Vishnujana just chants all day. Whenever he does take a break to distribute magazines the mood of the kirtan changes, so he is always asked to chant. The distribution goes a lot easier when he’s chanting. Revatinandana leads the party in BTG sales with 12-15 each day. That’s considered big for one devotee.
Labangalatika dd: We went on sankirtan for at least six hours a day with just a few devotees, maybe ten. This was my first introduction to Krishna consciousness. Vishnujana was wonderful. We would go out there and it would be so difficult because of being on the bodily platform, but by the time we came back we’d be in Krishnaloka, completely. The kirtans were so purifying. It was the most wonderful Krishna conscious experience to chant the Holy Name in the association of Vishnujana. He was the center of everything.
Dhristadyumna: There was a story around the LA temple. Tamal Krishna was such an organizer that he organized very nicely the first big kirtan parties in LA with Vishnujana leading. But Tamal wanted everybody to go out with the conch shell and collect money. Vishnujana would never collect. He only wanted to lead kirtan. When Prabhupada came, Tamal went to see him and complained, “Vishnujana won’t collect, Srila Prabhupada, he only wants to chant.” Prabhupada leaned back and smiled, “Yes, he has achieved liberation simply by chanting.” That was the end of Tamal’s plan to get Vishnujana to collect money. And it was kind of like that, Vishnujana didn’t think about money.
Around five o’clock the party heads back to the temple, where everybody showers and gets ready for sundara-drati. Vishnujana sings one or both of the kirtans for the evening program. Devotees prefer him leading. Revatinandana gets to lead occasionally. Sudama also leads from time to time. Even Tamal leads sometimes. Madhudvisa leads kirtan whenever he can get a chance to do it, but mostly Vishnujana leads because everybody wants him to.
As soon as arati is finished, prasadam is served. Then everybody goes out to Hollywood Boulevard. The new sankirtan spot is in front of the trendy restaurant, Diamond Jim’s. The whole mood is very festive and full of fun. It never seems like work. Everything is so enjoyable.
Vishnujana has really flowered since moving to La Cienega. The devotees are very enlivened because he is such a good preacher. He can also lead kirtan for eight to ten hours a day. Day in and day out.
For a change of pace, Vishnujana takes the sankirtan party out to Sunset Strip on the weekends.
Sukadeva: I was walking around Sunset Boulevard, and I heard a kirtan going on. By Krishna’s grace I walked around the corner to check it out, and there were the devotees. Vishnujana was leading the kirtan, with Tamal Krishna, Sudama, Umapati, and a lot of devotees from the LA temple. I had heard the Hare Krishna mantra in College. I had gone to some peace marches and heard the mantra. So I just sat down with them and started chanting. Tamal came up, gave me some incense, gave me a card, and invited me to the temple. I moved in the first night because Sudama invited me to stay the night.
Madhudvisa: Vishnujana would make up his own melodies. Prabhupada actually gave him that one song Vrndavana ramya sthana, and asked him to compose a melody. He composed this beautiful melody. Vishnujana was so intoxicated with kirtan. He would go out all day long having kirtan, come back to the temple, and start chanting bhajans for the Deities before evening arati. Then he’d lead the evening arati. He just kept on going and going. He was genuinely intoxicated with the Holy Name.
[From Radha-Damodar Vilasa by Vaiyasaki dasa Adhikari]