Chanting at the World's Biggest Street Party
By Krishna-kripa Dasa
The holy name resounds through the streets of Amsterdam on the Queen's birthday.
When countries observe national holidays, people often gather by the thousands to celebrate. Last year I was one of a group of Hare Krishna devotees on hand for Amsterdam's Queen's Day, known locally as Koninginnedag and described on one web page as "The World's Biggest Street Party." Every year, one to two million people crowd Amsterdam's streets to celebrate the birthday of the queen of the Netherlands.
What were we doing at an event celebrating the birthday of a worldly dignitary, where vendors sell things no one needs and drunk revelers get drunker by the hour? We were following in the footsteps of Lord Chaitanya and His glorious associates, who in distributing Krishna consciousness ignored the spiritual standing of the recipients. Whenever they got a chance, they distributed love of Godhead by publicly chanting the holy names of the Lord.
Srila Prabhupada writes,
People generally cannot understand the actual meaning of chanting and dancing. . . . Not only did Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates demonstrate this chanting and dancing, but the six Gosvamis also followed in the next generation. The present Krishna consciousness movement follows the same principle, and therefore simply by chanting and dancing we have received good responses all over the world. It is to be understood, however, that this chanting and dancing do not belong to this material world. They are actually transcendental activities, for the more one engages in chanting and dancing, the more he can taste the nectar of transcendental love of Godhead. (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Ådi 7.22 purport)
All the people of Amsterdam, and any other place for that matter, be they vendors or consumers, sober or drunk, are pure spiritual souls. Lord Chaitanya has said, "Pure love for Krishna is eternally established in the hearts of the living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens." Krishna's devotees try to give as many people as possible the chance to hear the name, glories, and instructions of Lord Krishna. Such hearing will purify them, bringing them one step closer to love of God, which alone can satisfy the needs of the soul, our real self.
Srila Prabhupada set the example of chanting in public, and as a result of hearing him, many people gave up degrading activities like intoxication and meat-eating and took up Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada stressed that his followers must practice Krishna consciousness strictly so that by their pure chanting others could become attracted to pure devotion to the Lord.
Orange, Orange Everywhere
Queen's Day was a wild scene. Her Highness was born in the Orange Dynasty, so people wear orange for the occasion. Some wore orange wigs styled with curls, dreadlocks, or mohawks. Head apparel included caps, berets, ski hats, broad-rimmed hats, construction hats, cone-shaped hats, and a variety of crowns, all orange. Some people painted their faces orange. Some wore orange glasses or rode on orange bicycles. Orange sweatshirts, orange overalls, orange tights, orange ponchos-orange everywhere.
The Hare Krishna brahmacharis and sannyasis were already dressed for the occasion, with their orange dhotis, kurtas, wraps, and caps, and a few of the women donned orange shawls and scarves.
About seventy chanting and dancing Hare Krishna devotees crisscrossed the canal-lined streets of Amsterdam for eight hours. Devotees hailed from Canada, America, England, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, and other countries. Many were disciples and friends of Holland-born Kadamba Kanana Swami, a dedicated organizer of the yearly event.
Throughout the day, devotees gave out the holy name, introduced inquisitive people to the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, and tasted great spiritual joy in doing so.
If you happen to be in Amsterdam this coming April 30-or can arrange to be there-please join Lord Chaitanya's sankirtana party on Queen's Day. Take part in delivering the highest benefit to thousands of orange-clad people who don't know that what they're looking for is devotion to Krishna, which lies asleep within their hearts.