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The Qualities of a Sankirtana Devotee
A Well-rounded Person
It is difficult for me to say what the most important quaity is for a sankirtana devotee to possess, because no one quality is more important than another. A sankirtana devotee must be a well-rounded person. For example, he must tolerate all kinds of changing conditions: Sometimes it is cold and sometimes it is hot, sometimes people are friendly and sometimes they are nasty, and sometimes he is living in the back of the sankirtana van and sometimes in some grungy hotel. He is so tolerant because he sees how the people are suffering, and he wants to help them. Thus he is also merciful and kind. Despite disturbing obstacles, he stays out on the street and continues to give Shrila Prabhupada's books to the people. To go on like this for a lifetime requires determination, especially it he doesn t do so well. Sometimes a devotee does well in the beginning but later has difficulty accomplishing the same results, and he has to show his determination to please Krsna and the spiritual master. He must be dedicated and devoted to the spiritual master because he is distributing books on the spiritual master's order. That order comes from Shrila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of our ISKCON society. Prabhupada has given that order throughout the history of ISKCON, and it applies for all history to come. Therefore the disciple must have a very great love for the spiritual master and his order . He accepet the order of the spiritual master and fulfills that order with his heart and soul. Shrila Prabhupada often quoted Shrila Vis'va-natha Cakravarn "Hiakura's commentary on the verse vyavn-sdydtmikd buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana, which says that the disciple must make the desire of the spiritual master his desire. The spiritual master desires to spread Krsna consciousness and distribute as many books as possible throughout the world, and we have to make this desire our desire because we have so many desires that do not have much to do with the preaching mission. This is natural for the conditioned soul. Therefore a serious devotee engages in the sankirtana mission and becomes very happy.
A sankirtana devotee must be nonenvious because now and then others will defeat him in the sankirtana competition. When this happens, he should be pleased that the other devotees are doing so nicely in their devotional service, and he should aspire to follow in their footsteps. He should not think, "I should have done what they did. I'm also very great. Why is everyone applauding them?" This is envy manifesting. Thus a sankirtana devotee must be satisfied with whatever comes of its own accord. For example, prasadam in the sankirtana van is not very opulent. One cooks on a one-burner stove with a pressure cooker, making kicharl with breadsticks in different varieties, sometimes with more potatoes, sometimes with fewer potatoes. One has to be satisfied with this simple meal. Thus austerity is required. To always carry around a lot of books is a much harder austeritv than to meditate in the forest and perform mystic yoga. The austerity of the yogis is to sit in a freezing cold river on a freezing cold winter's day and simply experience the coldness. This is a great austerity, and we doubt that we could do it. But we also doubt that the yogis could stand on a modern city street with a pile of books on their arm, handing them out to the people who come by. Now, of the two forms of austerity, which is more important and relevant to the preaching mission? The yogi, following the path of mystic austerity — sitting alone in the forest and enjoying the fruits of his austerities may benefit himself, but he is not benefiting anyone else. On the other hand, the sankirtana devotee is one-hundred-percent dedicated to serving and helping other people, which makes his austerity much more important and valuable than the austerity a mystic yogi performs.
One could list so many other qualities that the sankirtana men and ladies possess. Still, the sankirtana devotees are sometimes criticized by foolish persons who think that something is wrong with single-mindedly doing sankirtana all the time, that one doesn't become learned or devotionally qualified. That is foolish, because you will find all the best qualities in the sankirtana devotees. To keep the van clean is a cleaning project like cleaning the temple. Cooking little feasts on their one-burner is also an art. They are serving the Vaisnavas. And they have learned the most important art of becoming Krsna conscious and distributing that Krsna consciousness to others. What more do you want? Everything is there. Therefore to be a sankirtana devotee is the most glorious position within this Krsna consciousness mission.
The Qualities of a Sankirtana Devotee