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The Birth of the Sankirtana Movement
The sankirtana movement appeared when Lord Chaitanya began to preach in Navadvlpa. At that time, there was only the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Book distribution developed later on, when Lord Chaitanya encouraged the six Gosvamls of Vrndavana to write books. Some people ask, "Why didn't Lord Chaitanya Himself start the book distribution?" The answer is simple: There were no books. First He had to make the devotees who would write the books. Then He could inspire others to produce and distribute them. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's foremost representatives, Shrila Sanatana GosvamI and Shrila Rupa GosvamI, received direct instruction from Lord Chaitanya to reveal the principles of devotional service in written form for the benefit of all Vaisnavas. When the Gosvamls first went to Vrndavana, it was a jungle. The many places of pilgrimage we can visit nowadays had not yet been excavated and restored. Lord Chaitanya instructed Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamls to rediscover these places, but their main business was to write books. Sitting under the trees, they would dip a quill pen into some ink made from pressed flowers and write on special leaves (there was no paper at that time). On one leaf after another they wrote the wonderful books that form the foundation of the Krsna consciousness movement—books such as the Hari-bhakti-vildsa and Bhakti-rasdmrta-sindhu, which give all the necessary instructions for devotional service.
The intention of the Gosvamls was never sectarian. They wanted all the people of the world, regardless of their languages, to get the essence of Vedic knowledge. Prior to this, Vaisnava philosophy—so perfectly extracted from the Vedas and Purdnas—had not been systematically written down. But for the benefit of the followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, book production was begun by Shrila Sanatana and Rupa Gosvamls and later continued by Shrila Jlva GosvamI, who was the most prolific author among the Gosvamls. The writings of the Gosvamls turned out to be the most important form of sankirtana, because they were writing books that were soon to be distributed. After the disappearance of Shrila Sanatana GosvamI and Shrila Rupa GosvamI, Shrila Jlva GosvamI became the Vaisnava dcdrya in Vrndavana. Shrila Jlva GosvamI was convinced by Srlmatl Jahnava-devI, the wife of Lord Nityananda and head of the sankirtana movement, of the need to send bhakti literature from Vrndavana to Bengal. Some years earlier, she had visited Rupa and Sanatana in Vrndavana and was well aware of the abundant spiritual literature the Gosvamls wereproducing. To comply with her wishes, Shrila Jlva Gosvami sent Srlnivasa Acarya and Narottama dasa Thakura to distribute the books that had been written to the intellectuals of Bengal. From the precedent set by the Gosvamis, book production has been the basis of spreading the Krsna consciousness movement right up to the present time.