Captain Sankirtan

Srila Prabhupada and his book

From Jaya Govinda das

Iraq – As a Christian, Chaplain L. was real big on charity. Service to God meant service to man, so I decided that that was the angle from which I would 'get' him. After all, the best way to preach to someone is through the medium of their own beliefs, for they have no arguments against them.

Sure enough, the topic came up, as it always did, at our next discussion group meeting. The chaplain brought forth various excerpts from the Bible on the importance of charity work, as if to suggest that charity work isn't an important tenet of our philosophy. Little did he know.

Only a person who is fully in Krsna consciousness can be said to be engaged in welfare work for all living entities. When a person is actually in the knowledge that Krsna is the fountainhead of everything, then, when he acts in that spirit, he acts for everyone. The sufferings of humanity are due to forgetfulness of Krsna as the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend. Therefore, to act to revive this consciousness within the entire human society is the highest welfare work. One cannot be engaged in such first-class welfare work without being liberated in the Supreme. A Krsna conscious person has no doubt about the supremacy of Krsna. He has no doubt because he is completely freed from all sins. This is the state of divine love.

A person engaged only in ministering to the physical welfare of human society cannot factually help anyone. Temporary relief of the external body and the mind is not satisfactory. The real cause of one's difficulties in the hard struggle for life may be found in one's forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Lord. When a man is fully conscious of his relationship with Krsna, he is actually a liberated soul, although he may be in the material tabernacle. – Bg. 5:25 purport

He questioned me, "Well, what can you really do besides just loving your fellow brother and sister and trying to share with them the 'good word'. I mean, realistically, what can you do besides just tell people about God?"

So, there it was. The challenge. I replied, "Meet me in front of the PX in an hour and I'll show you. Bring some Bibles."

An hour later, the chaplain and I met at our destination. In his hands, he carried a stack of Bibles. I carried a stack of Bhagavad-Gitas and some small books. I proposed that we stand there for an hour and distribute the books, alternating between Bibles and Gitas. He was inclined to take the challenge, and so began Camp Anaconda's first book distribution marathon, which ended up lasting well beyond the proposed hour.

As I watched the chaplain distributing Prabhupada's Gita, I was simply amazed and awed at what Prabhupada had accomplished. Who would have ever thought that a Christian minister would be distributing Vedic knowledge in Iraq? And what would I be doing if the devotees had never found me? I'd probably be sitting there laughing at that 'silly guy giving out those silly books'. not realizing the extreme importance of what he was doing. He had just saved himself.

I also alternated between the Bibles and Gitas, adding a small book with each Bible. Periodically, I'd turn and check on the chaplain, and with each book, his smile grew bigger and brighter. He was receiving a brief taste of ecstasy, and I was humbled by it. By the end, we had distributed all of our books, which included a dozen hard Gitas and a dozen small books. The chaplain rambled on and on about how that was the greatest charity work he had done in Iraq. Indeed, it was.

He then told me that, if I was interested, I could set up a table of books outside his office, which was frequented by many people daily. This was one more avenue that Krsna was opening up. From then on, I referred to the chaplain as 'Captain Sankirtana'. And he was proud of it.

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