(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 24 October 2012, Vrindavan, India, Ramachandra Vijayotsava, Lecture)
Kirtan is emphasized as more important than japa because in the chanting of kirtan, one is bestowing mercy upon so many other beings and therefore it is considered to be even greater than chanting japa! Of course, the other day Yuvaneshwar Prabhu, in his sweet way came to me and said, ‘So what’s more important, kirtan or japa?’
I gave that explanation from sastra and he said, ‘Yes, but we promised to chant japa.’
So I said, ‘Fair enough, Prabhu!’
That is right, in one sense our japa is there. But today, on this day of Rama-Vijaya, also the anniversary of when the twenty-four hour kirtan was established here in Vrindavan, I would like to call it Nama-Vijaya, the victory of the holy name! It was indeed a glorious moment because Srila Prabhupada desired a twenty-four hour kirtan in Vrindavan. He first instructed Akshayananada Maharaj to do it but Akshayananda Maharaj was a serious sannyasi, with a very strict sadhana and he gave amazing lectures. He managed the service but struggled. I was Akshayananda Maharaj’s servant for a while so I know Maharaj very well. He had said to Prabhupada, ‘Whenever devotees come to Vrindavan, I will invite them to do the kirtan for at least one hour.’
Srila Prabhupada responded, ‘Invite them? You tell them they must do kirtan!’ Then they started talking about how to organize the kirtan. So Prabhupada said that we should organize the kirtan in four shifts of three hours.
Throughout the day, there was to be four shifts and throughout the night, four shifts as well. Devotees would do kirtan for three hours which is a serious, heavy shift but I guess that everyone was young and full of energy so Prabhupada thought it was fine and they will manage.
In that period, there were very quick changes of temple presidents in Vrindavan. Hansadutta also had a short period of being a president then and he received further instructions from Prabhupada on how to establish the twenty-four hour kirtan. Anyway, I am sure it worked for a while but as with many things, they work for a while and then it goes down again.
By the time I came to Vrindavan in 1978, I very quickly became involved in management and after a short time, I was the temple commander and it was my service to arrange for the twenty-four hour kirtan… and I can tell you, it was impossible! It was so hard… the night shifts! I mean who was going to do the night shifts!? Okay, throughout the day and throughout the darshan of the deities, we managed it. But with the night shifts – we could put in impressive shifts just before mangala-aarti – we could do a bit of a show kirtan but throughout the night, forget it!
We could not get it together because we were doing it in a way of trying to invite people and remind people that this is what Srila Prabhupada wanted and this is our duty because Prabhupada wanted it therefore we must do it! That did not work. But on the strength of that, when Aindra came, I think he first tried it out in 1983, and he started kirtan here with some devotees and he got a taste for it! Then he made up his mind to take it on as a full time service in 1986. It was successful because he did it in an inspired way! He was inspired and was very good… he was a very good kirtan leader and he attracted other good kirtan leaders!
In the beginning, when the twenty-four hour kirtan had started, we were not sure who was the best… but Aindra became fixed and determined. Aindra was not only fixed about chanting the holy name but he was very determined to remain as a brahmacari. When one decides to remain a brahmacari for life then that is a very serious decision! As we know, it is not a light thing at all as so many acaryas have “slipped between the cup and the lips” as they say but Aindra was very fixed and very determined in that way!